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 Massachusetts on Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, unveiled a sweeping set of proposed restrictions that would restrict access to high-powered ammunition, broaden background checks and restrict gun purchases to one per month. Earlier in the week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the country’s toughest assault weapons ban and limits on ammunition magazines, saying that “no one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer.” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are also pushing gun reforms in their states.
And in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden led formulation of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence announced this week. Speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday, Biden said the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school had changed the political dynamics of gun control.
“There are some who say the most powerful voice in this debate belongs to the gun lobbies and those that demand the stop to these common-sense approaches to save lives,” Biden said. “I think they’re wrong. This time — this time will not be like times that have come before. Newtown has shocked the nation. The carnage on our streets is no longer able to be ignored.”
The moves by the five men — all potential presidential candidates — mirror a broader shift among Democrats, who have generally shied away from pushing any significant gun-control legislation since Al Gore’s defeat in a 2000 campaign that included a fiery debate over weapons restrictions.
“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.”