Democratic presidential candidates have made gun control a dominant issue for the national election, signaling a sea change in the politics of a controversial subject that recent Democratic nominees have often avoided, says the Washington Post. After years of deadly mass shootings, and with President Obama voicing deep frustration with inaction by Republicans in Congress, candidates led by Hillary Clinton vowed in Tuesday’s debate to toughen restrictions on gun owners and gun manufacturers. Most seemed not merely willing but determined and eager to lead the push for gun control into next year's general election and effectively declared war on the National Rifle Association. “We have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence,” Clinton said. “This has gone on too long, and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA.”
Republicans welcome the turn, arguing that Democrats are underestimating the power of the pro-gun-rights movement and risk overplaying their hand. In a sign of how potent this issue is among Democratic primary voters, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who represents a rural state with a rich hunting tradition, has shifted position after past votes in favor of gun rights. He now supports an approach that includes expanding background checks for gun purchases, eliminating the “gun-show loophole” and addressing the issue of mental illness. Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has been particularly passionate in discussing guns. He notes that as governor after the Newtown, Ct., school massacre, he ushered in sweeping new gun laws. “The only problem with the Democrats' anti-Second Amendment strategy is that the vast majority of Americans disagree with them on this issue,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.