Ambitious Democrats Have Mixed Record on Gun Control Success

Voters won't likely punish, reward Dems on the issue of gun control.


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vice President Joe Biden, are among the presidential hopefuls who have had limited success pushing gun reforms.

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Democrats with an eye on the White House in 2016 have gone all in on enacting gun control policies following the Newtown massacre and have been met with mixed success.

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Vice President Joe Biden, who was charged by President Barack Obama to lead the White House push for new legislation, just presided over a losing Senate vote on a bipartisan background check measure. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, both said to be eyeing a potential presidential run, each successfully passed comprehensive gun reforms in their respective states.

But experts say their win-loss records on the issue will have little bearing on their ability to woo voters in a presidential primary.

"Biden is pretty popular up here among Democrats, I don't think he's going to lose any support for not being able to get a gun control bill shepherded through," says Andy Smith, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "He's not going to be taking the responsibility for it. Even the voters of New Hampshire understand the power of the vice presidency on most things is not much. It possibly would help the [governors] who could point to something done in their states."

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New Hampshire, home to the first presidential primary, boasts a high gun ownership rate – about 44 percent, Smith adds.

Still, he says, "these aren't even secondary issues, they are usually tertiary issues – they are just not the things people are concerned about on a day-to-day basis."

And gun reform legislation experts say one failed Senate vote doesn't spell an end to the fight for someone like Biden.

Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, says already more has been done in the wake of Newtown than other mass shootings in recent years.

"At the state level, we've seen four not just modest but major new pieces of legislation enacted in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado, and we've seen much more happen in the Senate," he says, adding that historically, federal gun policy takes years to accomplish.

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"To enact the Brady Act in 1993, which is the basic law requiring background checks at least for sales from licensed gun dealers, that didn't get enacted the first year it was introduced, even the first year it was seriously debated," Vernick says. "The history of major changes in gun violence prevention legislation is one that involves keeping at it. Reform to gun policy is clearly a marathon and not a sprint."

Hillary Clinton, thought to be the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been largely silent during the recent debate.

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