In the aftermath of the failure of gun control amendments in the Senate, most attention has been focused on the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey provision to expand background checks. While that provision wouldn’t have prevented Newtown or any other recent mass-shooting and made mostly cosmetic changes to federal law, it went down to bi-partisan defeat. The bigger story, however, is that Obama’s signature proposal, a ban on assault weapons and extended magazines, was overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate. Fifteen Democrats opposed the long-sought gun control measure.
By a vote of 40-60, the Senate rejected the Feinstein amendment banning military-style assault weapons. Virtually every Democrat facing reelection next year in a competitive state voted against the measure. CO Sen. Mike Bennett, who is leading the Democrats’ election efforts in 2014, voted against the ban. His colleague, liberal Sen. Mark Udall, who is up for reelection next year in CO, also voted against the measure.
It isn’t surprising that red state Democrats like Sens. Pryor, Begich, Landrieu, Baucus and Hagan voted against the measure. It is more surprising however that Maine Sen. Angus King, both Dems from New Mexico, and VA Sen. Mark Warner also voted against the measure. The Democrats voting against the assault weapons’ ban represent almost one-third of the entire Dem caucus. Only GOP Sen. Mark Kirk crossed the aisle to support the ban.
This is not just a failure of President Obama and Vice-President Biden, but a devastating setback for their fledgling Organizing for Action. That non-profit, organized out of the remnants of Obama’s successful reelection campaign, is tasked with building grass-roots support for Obama’s agenda. They mobilized extensively to support gun control. These efforts, however, failed to win support from a sizable block of the Democrat caucus.
Gun control is not a winning issue. Obama, with the full wattage of his bully pulpit, a compliant media, and the weight of his grass-roots organization, nevertheless failed to achieve any of his goals. Worse, his most far-reaching proposal, the assault weapons ban, was resoundingly rejected by a big block of his own party.
OFA seems to be getting started just as Obama’s ability to impact the domestic agenda is ending.