With the next election 18 months away, senators who bucked 90 percent of the public on the recent vote to expand background checks for gun buyers probably think time will fade the memory for voters.
But if anything, it's energized the overwhelming majority that favors more controls. The vote is coming back to bite a number of senators (Republican Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is just one example) who defied the national polls to lick the jackboots of the National Rifle Association. Ayotte's numbers have dropped like a barrel of bricks. But never mind -- the gun lobby takes care of its own. A new NRA ad campaign says she's not just a senator, she's also a "mom who cares about protecting our kids." Really?
Maybe senators like Ayotte should learn what the majority of moms have to say instead of relying on the NRA to frame their arguments. There's been a definite gender gap for years when it comes to the gun control issue.
Even before Tucson, Aurora, and Sandy Hook, women and men differed on gun control. Moms were significantly more likely than dads to restrict how much of the carnage their kids saw on TV. Men viewed mass shootings as isolated incidents, while women saw them as broader problems in society. The gap is even wider now, with 65 percent of women backing stricter gun laws, compared to 44 percent of men.
The NRA ad campaign is way out front of the 2014 election (2016 in Ayotte's case) because they fear losing their lackeys in Congress, and they never turn off the money spigot to assure those seats are safely bought and paid for.
Barack Obama won the women's vote with a 20-point gender gap -- the largest Gallup has measured since it began tracking the presidential vote by subgroup in 1952. Even without a presidential contest to boost turnout, the gender-gun-control gap could change the face of Congress in the mid-term elections. A recent poll by the Women Donors Network found that women who don't ordinarily turn out in off years now say they're much more likely to vote in 2014 because of the gun issue.
Anti-gun-control Democrats and Republicans alike need to pay attention. Election year kicks off in a little over 7 months -- just two weeks after the country will mark the first anniversary of Sandy Hook.
The NRA ad says Senator Ayotte "knows that the only way to protect our children from tragedies like Sandy Hook is to fix our broken mental health system." Could be. But maybe the majority -- female voters -- will decide a better way is to fix our broken Congress.
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