I like Kirsten Gillibrand but this piece about her “evolution” on gun safety describes pretty typical Democratic behavior:
As a freshman member of the House of Representatives serving New York’s rural 20th district, Gillibrand received a 92 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. She told Newsday in 2009 that she kept two rifles under her bed. “If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right,” she said.
Now that she represents all of New York, she doesn’t have guns under her bed and she’s getting a 0 rating from the NRA.
The NRA had a pretty good thing going with Democrats in purplish districts. If the Democrat channeled Wayne LaPierre on guns, as Gillibrand did, there was a good chance that the NRA would leave them alone, as long as the NRA was pretty sure that the Democrat would win. That’s as far as NRA “support” of a Democrat would usually go, because the NRA always has been a Republican organization, even though some Democrats or possible crossover Republican gun owners have historically belonged.
The NRA has so completely owned this issue for decades, and Democrats who weren’t in safe districts have so fully capitulated, that I don’t think that we’ve really tested the limits of NRA power. My opinion–not backed by any polling because pre-Sandy Hook polls are dated, and post-Sandy Hook polling is too volatile and unfocused–is that there aren’t many crossover voters in the NRA anymore. Most people who want to stock their house with an arsenal of assault rifles have a paranoid world view that is explicitly catered to by Republican media outlets and politicians. In her district, Kirsten Gillibrand probably could have turned her basement into an armory and slept with a rocket launcher and she still wouldn’t have gotten many the “new” NRA member votes. But Democratic politicians still behave as if NRA support is make-or-break. If I were a Democrat running for office in 2014, I’d want to poll my district pretty hard before I was convinced that the NRA owns it.