Rahm Emanuel Tells Democrats How To Win The Gun Debate

January 15, 2013 6:38 a.m.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), a veteran of the last successful push to enact gun control in Congress back in the 1990s, told a progressive audience Monday that the current push for new gun regulations after the Newtown, Conn., shooting will be a tougher lift than President Clinton had to contend with when he passed an assault weapons ban through a Democratic Congress.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats and gun control advocates can’t win this time around, Emanuel said. Reaching back to his days as a Congressional tactician, Emanuel laid out a plan of attack for gun control proponents hoping to push new regulations through a Republican-held House.Here are Emanuel’s suggestions, as laid out during a gun violence forum at the Center For American Progress Monday. Emanuel sat on a panel with Rep. Mike Thompson (CA), the House Democrats’ pointman on gun violence after Newtown.

• Talk About Crime

Emanuel said one way Democrats got an assault weapons ban passed in 1994 was to cast a ban as a crime reduction measure.

“It’s all about criminal access. It’s not about gun control. It’s about criminal access,” Emanuel said. “That changes the debate.”

He called on gun control advocates to get the law enforcement community on board, and to put them “front and center” in any policy push. He also said proponents need to add proposals to any gun control package that focus crime prevention to drive the message home that the bill is a crime bill not a gun bill.

Gun control proponents are focusing their attention on expanding background checks this time around. Thompson said the crime prevention messaging works for that proposal as well.

• Win The Messaging

Thompson has suggested the high-capacity magazines gun control supporters want to ban be called “assault magazines” in the upcoming political debate. Emanuel jumped on the idea.

“I do believe that as it relates to both the type of weapon, being an ‘assault weapon’ in this case or an ‘assault magazine’ as Mike has strenuously focused us on message on that,” Emanuel said. “Because the difference between a magazine that holds ten and a magazine that holds 20 or 30 is a lot of different type of damage.”

• Let The Senate Go First

Emanuel said the best way for Democrats to pressure the House GOP is to pass gun legislation through the Senate first.

“My view is whatever you do, start in the Senate,” he said in response to a question from TPM. “Get it done there and clear the decks and put the ultimate pressure on the House.”

A Senate-passed bill would “put the burner up” on the House GOP, Emanuel said.

Like many Democrats, Emanuel said any package of post-Newtown gun control should contain an assault weapons ban. (It’s worth noting that while gun control groups are certainly supportive of a ban, they’re calling for a focus on background checks instead.) Emanuel’s Senate-first plan may hit a snag there, however. Majority Leader Harry Reid told a Nevada public TV show Friday that the Senate will only move gun bills that leadership thinks can pass the House. That likely means no assault weapons ban.

Video of the CAP event:

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