Issue of Gun Rights Still Holds Sway

Democratic leaders admit they are confounded by the mounting problems with gun votes and are trying to find a way out of a situation that is partly a product of their own success. The wider their majority, the more members Democrats have from swing districts where gun rights are likely to be a prominent issue.

One of those members, Representative Travis Childers of Mississippi, last year was able to win House approval of his plan to let residents of the District of Columbia buy and keep guns in their homes for self-protection, a further retreat from the district’s virtually universal ban on legal handgun ownership that had already been relaxed by the Supreme Court.

“The Second Amendment right is a long-standing pillar in our system of government, and I believe law-abiding citizens should have the right to defend their homes in the District of Columbia, just like they have the ability to do so in the First Congressional District of Mississippi,” said Mr. Childers, who persuaded 81 other Democrats to side with him.

Democratic leaders say that baseline of 80 or so Democrats has undoubtedly grown, given gains in moderate districts last November, providing a solid House majority for gun rights when combined when strong support among Republicans. The cultural shift is pronounced — this week’s mass shootings in Alabama and Germany stirred hardly a Congressional call for new gun restrictions, a contrast from past episodes.

Even with important legislation on the line, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders seem unwilling to demand that Democrats with a record of backing gun rights relent when the issue is secondary, as is the case with the District of Columbia voting-rights bill.

New York Times
3/15/9