President Clinton correct: Gun issue 
could cost Dems in next election

This week, I have to agree with something former President Bill Clinton had to say, and I saw evidence of it right here in Grand Junction. Not that I haven’t agreed with a few things he’s had to say before. After all, there’s no denying that he is one of the cagiest politicians of our age.

Last week, he was busily warning fellow Democrats that this recent radical attack on the Second Amendment and firearms was in the process of re-energizing the tea party, which could prove quite costly to Democrats in the midterm elections.

To demonstrate the basis for his worries, we had 500 people show up to a very hastily called rally in the freezing cold in Grand Junction last Saturday, people concerned about the attacks on the Second Amendment. Among the group were not only some articulate spokesmen for the Second Amendment but also a number of folks who in the past have been at odds over some candidates and policy positions. But now they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder on these overarching themes of the Second Amendment, personal freedom and a citizen’s relationship to his government.

These are the same type of themes that welded conservatives and libertarians with traditional Republicans for the 2010 elections. Clinton sees this happening again, with not just the topic of gun-control but the manner with which it is being pursued. He warned Democrat operatives to “not look down your nose at them.”

In an article that appeared in Politico.com, it was noted the former president devoted much of his speech to some of President Barack Obama’s supporters as a cautionary note against pursuing a too-vigorous and arrogant approach to Second Amendment limitations.

Clinton should know. The 1994 assault weapons ban was credited with giving Republicans back control in the House and probably cost Speaker of the House Tom Foley not just his job as speaker but his seat in Congress.

Clinton also pointed something out about Colorado that was especially interesting when he mentioned that in the 2000 presidential election, there was a referendum on the ballot in the state concerning background checks for gun-show sales. Former Vice President Al Gore supported the measure and, although the referendum was successful in the state, Clinton believed Gore’s support for it cost him Colorado in the election.

Clinton’s point was that it’s not just numbers, but the dedication of the opposition and how the argument is cast in regard to the candidate that can make all the difference.

This presents an answer to the question of what can be done to prevent the loss of gun-owners’ rights in exchange for limitations that offer little or no benefit.

The first step activists need to take is to harness the interest and concern of gun owners and bring that focus to bear on progressive state legislators who are in competitive districts, of which there are a number.

It should come as no surprise that it is one thing for individuals such as Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino or Senate President John Morse to make controversial and grandiose pronouncements about restricting firearm access. It something else for people such as Democratic state Sen. Evie Haduk, who won re-election by about .05 percent in 2012 with a sitting president from her own party on the ticket, to embrace those positions.

The best choices for gun owners to challenge are those up for election in 2014. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the Western Slope or the Front Range, activists should make them aware that if they’re going to pass controversial legislation that affects the entire state, then citizens from anywhere in the state can feel free to send money to and labor for their opponents.

The governor also deserves special attention. Gov. John Hickenlooper has shown himself to be less-than enthusiastic about controversy. Plus there are some amusing rumors that he might be considered presidential timber in 2016, presumably of the balsa variety. He would, however, present an interesting and relatively harmless regional choice for vice president — if he manages to keep himself reasonably popular and not controversial. There’s nothing like ambition to keep a politician in check.

This issue may prove a winning one for conservatives, who find themselves surprisingly in agreement with President Clinton.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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