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Don't Shoot the Messenger ... or Threaten a Senator

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

As a columnist, I have my own opinions on issues, and from the get-go I opposed expanded background checks for gun purchases because I viewed it as a slippery slope that could lead to more and more lists of honest Americans and more and more control by the government that would own those lists.


But as a pollster and a guy who has seen decades of the rise and fall of political parties, I know when my opinion is on the losing side of an issue. It's too bad my friends at the NRA did not realize it, too. Too many tragedies involving young people have taken place too often in this past year, and the mainstream media have done their job to pound the public with more than enough stories directed toward converting the emotions into support for increased gun control.

Polls not only nationwide but in many strong and traditional Republican states show that on the issue of expanded background checks, the NRA and pro-gun-rights groups are fighting a losing battle. Independent voters have fallen hard for such measures, as have female voters, and in some deep "red" states less than half of those who are Republicans oppose such increased searches.

And it has to be noted that just like in the November election, President Obama and his forces have outmaneuvered, out-organized, and outsmarted the Republicans and the gun lobby. It seems that the operatives who just keep going to the GOP honeypot for money to consult and pontificate (and lose) have their hand in the pocket of the NRA and other organizations.

The idea of arming our schools with law enforcement might be a good one, but the NRA came out with the alternative too late in the game. And expanding its proposal to include certain trained school employees or other non-law-enforcement personnel, too -- what could have been a legitimate alternative -- turned the proposal into something that too few could take seriously.


So, if all else fails -- if your counterproposals are half-baked and the opposition has organized an endless parade of victims' families to storm Capitol Hill -- what better last gasp than to threaten senators that their position on these bills or even allowing them to be debated will be included in their "score" with your organization?

Oh, that is really smart ... not. Groups that use threats against legislators when the polling is failing them and their strategic moves have backfired usually prove just one thing -- that they are desperate and could be rendered toothless. Going after elected officials is never a bright thing to do unless you know that if you aim ... well, you get my point.

Understand that many a GOP senator will vote against the gun bill knowing that the core GOP vote is with them on this issue. But asking them to do so may be a matter of winning a battle but losing the war. The tea party that just a year ago could do no wrong has, in some states, ventured into areas ranging from ethics in government to fighting nuclear power. On a national basis, the movement is stalling out, and as its members start linking issues such as gun control with what was once considered a fiscally conservative effort, that trend might start to accelerate.

Independent voters, who determine the winners in swing states and comprised a large segment of those who originally backed the tea party effort, are the very same voters who started to abandon the GOP when it pushed for a federal bill to address the state issue of whether Terri Schiavo's husband could terminate her life support. Just look at the national polling numbers from that date. The GOP started to lose supporters nationally and to this very day has had a hard time returning to its heady days of the post-2004 Bush victory.


Perhaps what the GOP, the tea party and the NRA all need are some fresh minds that can reinvent how to package their causes. Clearly, the same old inside-the-Beltway responses coupled with disorganized plans are merely setting the Democrats and President Obama up for more victories and locking Republicans into positions that guarantee defeat.

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