Starting tomorrow, Americans in 13 states can expect to see this ad quite a bit, thanks to a $12 million ad buy launched by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group.
For those who can't watch clips online, the spot shows a man holding a shotgun telling viewers, "I believe in the Second Amendment and I'll fight to protect it. But with rights come responsibilities. That's why I support comprehensive background checks so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can't buy guns. That protects my rights and my family.
A second ad featuring the same man show him saying, "Background checks have nothing to do with taking guns away from anyone," which has the added benefit of being true.
And as we apply Newton's laws of motion to politics, Bloomberg's ads will, of course, produce an equal and opposite reaction.
For those who can't watch clips online, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre called Bloomberg's efforts "insane," adding, "He can't buy America.'' LaPierre vowed that his group would lead a national counter-campaign to oppose any new gun-safety measures.
Keep in mind, just as the presidential election looked to be national in scope when it really only focused on a handful of states, this political campaign on gun violence is also focusing on a narrow number of lawmakers.
Indeed, Mayors Against Illegal Guns picked its 13 states carefully, targeting not only persuadable Republican senators, but also "red"-state Democrats like Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
This clearly matters, since on gun policy, Democrats are not necessarily on the same page. Even on policies like universal background checks, which enjoy overwhelming public support, it's a mistake to assume every Senate Democrat is an automatic "aye" vote. Greg Sargent asked this morning where are "these red state Dems ... stand on expanding background checks."
The last time I checked into this, Pryor's office refused to respond to the question, while a spokesperson for Landrieu confirmed she had not taken a position. As best as I can determine, Donnelly and Hagan have not taken a clear position. Heitkamp recently took a beating from the gun control forces for describing Obama's proposals as "extreme," prompting her to issue a statement declaring that "we have a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while protecting the rights of law abiding gun owners." Expanding background checks would do exactly that, but Heitkamp has since been cagey on where she stands on them.
It is crucial that these Democrats show the political courage to stand up for expanded background checks. They are supported by nine in 10 Americans, including 87 percent of Republicans. Failure to embrace expanded background checks will send a signal that public opinion over the proposal is divided and that it is controversial. But opinion is not divided at all. This proposal has universal public support. It is not at all controversial. Even huge majorities of gun owners support the idea. If Democrats can't win the argument over this -- even in red states -- what can they win an argument over?
Proposals to reduce gun violence will reach the Senate floor after members' break, so expect the lobbying campaign in the interim to get pretty intense.