By Philip Rucker
The Washington Post
For the first time in more than a decade, Democratic presidential aspirants see a political advantage in championing far-reaching restrictions on guns.
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley rolled out a sweeping plan Monday to ban military-style firearms and ammunition clips as well as overhaul mental health and school safety programs.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached agreement with state lawmakers to enact measures including the country's toughest assault weapons ban, saying that "no one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is pushing to mandate universal background checks on all gun sales — a controversial move in a Western state where gun enthusiasts usually hold sway.
And in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden is at the center of a fierce fight over the nation's federal gun laws. Advocates on both sides have cycled in and out of Biden's conference room this month as he hammers out the details of the Obama administration's impending plan to curb gun violence.
The four men — each a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 — are staking out strong positions in the emotionally charged gun debate. Long dormant in national politics, the gun control issue has been revived in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 small children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"Finally, Democrats are getting out of Plato's cave when it comes to guns and are not fearful of their own shadow on this issue," strategist Chris Lehane said. "Democrats used to play defense. Now you have Democrats who recognize this is a winning issue and are playing offense on the issue."
On the Republican side, many of the potential contenders in four years are lying low on the issue, leaving it to the National Rifle Association and conservative lawmakers without national ambitions to make arguments against further gun regulations.