I've long felt that what will change things in the gun-control debate is when politicians realize that having a high NRA rating actually hurts them -- and losing an election holds more concern for them than the joy of getting money from the NRA. After all, what good is having a full treasure chest of campaign money if having that chest means you lose?
Will such a thing happen? Hard to say at this point, but in the recent Chicago election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. in the 2nd Congressional district, the prohibitive favorite, Debbie Halvorson, a former member of Congress, got repeatedly slammed in the primary for being pro-NRA -- and she ended up losing. (The winner of the primary, Robin Kelly, ended up winning the special election.)
In fairness, that was in a heavily Democratic city district, so it may not be typical. Yet now we see something similar happening in a totally different environment, the state of New Hampshire. In a Public Policy Polling result, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has dropped 15 points after voting against background checks for firearms, and that's without an unrelenting ad campaign against her, such as Ms. Halvorson faced. Sen. Ayotte previously had a 48-35 percent approval rating. Now, she's at 44-46 percent. Is the turnaround because of that one vote? Well, given that nothing else significant has occurred in her agenda since the previous poll and giving that PPP also says that three-quarters of New Hampshire voters support background checks, it certainly seems reasonable to think so.
Kelly Ayotte will be running for reelection in 2016 when she is expected to face Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Though Ms. Ayotte won her previous race by 23 points, current polling has her behind the governor 44-46.
Of course, bills passing the Senate are only half the equation, and getting through the House seems the bigger challenge. But again, if candidates there see what happened in Chicago and sense that they have a better chance of winning by voting for gun control, no matter how much the gun manufacturer-owned NRA gives them -- indeed, specifically because of what the NRA gives them -- them perhaps we can see some change there, too, over time.
On the one hand, yes, this is an uphill battle. On the other hand, it's a battle where polls show an amazing 90 percent of the public actually supports the issue, in some form.