If there is one thing that the National Rifle Association does not do, it is get scared easily. But this October, that may have changed. The lobbying group, financed by gun manufacturers to push the agenda of gun owners, has long been an aggressive defender of gun rights and the Second Amendment, even to the point of absurdity, and its prime tactic in this regard has always been to play offense.
But it was President Obama who went on the offensive in the second presidential debate, and in a brief and generally ignored exchange hinted that he would like to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban of 2004. The NRA reacted with forceful ads against him in several states.
Ostensibly, the ads were directed at the president's judicial appointments, who are pro-gun-control, but that is nonsense. A few judicial appointments, even on the Supreme Court, will make very little difference to the issue of gun rights since the legislative side is all but impotent. The president himself has done almost nothing during his four years to promote gun control and has repeatedly expressed his support for the Second Amendment. So why is the NRA so nervous?
Perhaps it's because the organization understands its enemy more clearly than even his supporters do, and they know the implications of a second Obama term.
Gun control has always been a no-win issue for Democrats. After all, with 90 firearms for every 100 Americans, it is clear that gun owners form a very large voting bloc in this country, and given the passion with which a lot of them love guns, and the extremism with which some of them interpret the Second Amendment, it is obvious that any politician who advocates gun control is gambling with those votes. As a first-term president with a lot on his plate, including a massive economic crisis, spiraling healthcare costs, rising oil prices, explosive unrest in the Middle East, a catastrophic oil spill, and congressional gridlock, not to mention a reelection campaign, it is no wonder that Obama opted not to add this particular issue to his agenda. But a second term is a different story.
If Obama wins in November, he will be in an unusually powerful position to take on the NRA and the issue of gun control in a way that has not been seen in more than a decade. With no more campaigns to fight and with two of his biggest commitments--the economy, which is gradually recovering, and the Affordable Care Act, which is firmly in place--under control, the president will be free to take action on this matter with boldness and reason. His balanced view on guns ensures that he would only push for reforms that are critical to protecting the safety of Americans -- such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and restricting the sale of unlimited amounts of ammunition -- and leave the core of the "right to bear arms" intact so that citizens can continue to protect their homes and families. This will net him the valuable moral support of the wider public and give him a true mandate to restore sanity in our society.
The reality is that after the recent string of massacres, starting in Colorado, America is getting extremely tired of senseless shootings, and even more tired of the reckless attitude of gun rights advocates who choose to ignore the gun violence sweeping our nation. Not only is the NRA's campaign to glorify guns irresponsible, its opposition to even common-sense gun laws like background checks is blatantly unpatriotic and dangerous. It gets away with this sort of recklessness because of the vast sums of money at its disposal, which it can use for misinformation campaigns and lobbying -- and because of the lack of political will in Washington to tackle gun control.
But I view Obama as the type of man who does not intimidate easily and who, once he decides to do so, could really give the NRA a run for its money. Anyone who doubts this should remember how he won the battle on health care and the ferocity with which he pushed it through in the end, despite the machinations of the Republican Party and the insurance companies. Whether you like Obamacare or not, the president's mettle on that was undeniable.
The NRA knows this and also knows that, should Obama get four more years, he is likely to take on gun control and put a serious dent in the group's efforts to bully America into submission. That is precisely why the organization is going after him now, and why it's worried that he might win on Tuesday. It may be an unintentional compliment, but the NRA has revealed its own belief that Obama is a tough president who can get things done, and in the process, given all of us another reason to vote for him.
This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.