Democrats see 2014 opportunity in gun control debate

A memo Monday from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outlines how it believes "Tea Party Republicans" are hurting the party overall with their stance against expanded gun control measures. 

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"On the eve of a major grassroots push in favor of gun violence prevention, it’s clear that Tea Party House Republicans will maintain their out-of-touch approach and obstruct sensible reforms to reduce gun violence that most Americans support — undermining their party’s appeal, hurting their candidates and endangering suburban Republican seats," the memo reads.

Obama last month unveiled a series of reforms aimed at curbing gun violence, including a call for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines. But many of the president's proposals remain controversial within the Republican Party — and among many Democrats — including the assault weapons ban and background checks.

Some Republicans, however, have indicated a willingness to back aspects of the president's reform effort. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in an interview with CNN that he was open to implementing a system used in Virginia, which expands available information in a statewide database used for background checks, on a national scale.

Cantor's openness to background checks reflects strong public opinion in support of that plank of Obama's gun control proposal, according to a number of recent public polls. The DCCC circulated results from a handful of those polls in its memo, arguing they provide evidence that the public supports expanded gun control measures.

While two polls, one from Quinnipiac and one from The New York Times and CBS, show that more than 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, public opinion is more mixed on stricter gun control laws overall. 

Fifty-two percent of those polled by Quinnipiac and 56 percent polled by NBC and The Wall Street Journal expressed support for stricter laws.

The DCCC believes this could be a significant issue in a handful of seats positioned in purple suburban districts throughout the country, where social issues could be able to sway voters to vote Democratic.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) indicated in a year-end briefing with reporters that the committee would pursue exactly those districts in 2013.

"Many of [the targeted districts] are in suburban areas, represented significantly by independent and moderate voters who've had it with Tea Party extremism. Many of them are in areas of the country, in areas of growing Latino communities, where our candidates competed effectively although may have fallen short at the end of the day," he said.

Democrats hope to tie the Republican Party as a whole to any opposition in Congress to expanded gun control measures.

"While the gun safety debate plays out, Republicans in critical suburban districts around the country will play defense, as socially moderate families concerned about safety demand commonsense measures to protect their children," the memo reads.

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