Gun control and police brutality are two of biggest domestic issues facing the country currently. President Obama has made gun control a center piece of his agenda at the same time as the views of law enforcement are probably at an all-time low on the left. While personally I hold the the liberal view on both guns and the behavior of law enforcement officials in this country particularly toward African-Americans, I realize by appearing adversarial to law enforcement, many on the left cannot push for gun control as effectively as was done in the 1990’s.
President Bill Clinton had very few convictions and a general willingness to shift position or compromise in order to achieve a political end. However. his ability to combine gun control measures into a mechanism to help law enforcement was pure political genius. The Democrats were able to get law enforcement officials around the country to very openly advocate stricter control on firearms, background checks (The Brady legislation) and even an Assault Weapons Ban. President Clinton was also able to advance the idea of putting a 100,000 more police officers on the street a direct rebuttal to the Republicans “idea” of the time that building more prisons would somehow deter crime.
Today, it appears impossible to repeat this playbook given the general distrust of law enforcement many on the left have developed and the constant GOP rhetoric about defending the police. But without marrying the two, it becomes trickier politically to build a coalition to push for gun control legislation. The power of the NRA existed in a big way in the 1990’s at a similar level to today, but the political implications of voting with the NRA flipped many moderate Republicans from urban areas into the pro-Gun Control column, including several from Florida.
From a political standpoint it might make sense for Democratic leaders including the President to openly court law enforcement including the unions for the police officers. Getting safety measures passed related to guns might be easier if they are involved. Florida might be a logical place to start since the Democrats have no power in the state but control enough large cities and counties to make a push, at least publicly.