Bill Clinton: Democrats Must Respect Gun Rights, Culture
Former President Bill Clinton has a warning for top Democratic donors: Don't underestimate weapons rights supporters.
Clinton, speaking to a group of Democrats at the Obama National Finance Committee Saturday, said gun control gets a special emotional response from people in rural states, and dismissing pro-gun arguments can backfire.
“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said, Politico reported.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world."
Some polls say that the public supports proposals for increased gun control, Politico reports, but Clinton said emotions will rule when it comes to legislation on gun control.
“All these polls that you see saying the public is for us on all these issues — they are meaningless if they’re not voting issues,” Clinton said.
Clinton dedicated most of his 40-minute address to guns and gun control, and said the issue will be a test for Obama's grassroots movements.
“The way the Obama campaign won Florida, won Ohio, won this election by more than projected was the combination of technology, social media and personal contact,” Clinton said. That’s “the only way that our side will ever be able to even up the votes in the midterms and as these issues come up, really touch people and talk to them about it.”
Obama's gun control measures, announced last week, need a congressional vote, but the Republican-controlled House isn't likely to approve the legislation – and many Democrats from gun-strong states are wary of discussing the issue.
Clinton said that passing the 1994 federal assault weapons ban “devastated” more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers in the 1994 midterms. In fact, then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley, D-Wash., lost his job and his seat in Congress.
“I’ve had many sleepless nights in the many years since,” Clinton said. One reason? “I never had any sessions with the House members who were vulnerable,” he explained — saying that he had assumed they already knew how to explain their vote for the ban to their constituents.