Normally a Democratic Congressional primary would attract little national attention. But the contest Tuesday in Illinois' Second Congressional District pitted two political giants against each other: the National Rifle Association and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Democratic candidate Robin Kelly, a strong gun control advocate, handily won Tuesday's primary, which had a low turnout in part due to a winter storm. "Robin Kelly couldn't have been clearer about her position on gun safety," said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Independence USA. "This sends an enormous message to the N.R.A."
Independence USA is Mayor Bloomberg's super PAC, which he set up to spend money on candidates that share his views on issues he cares about. Bloomberg's PAC spent more than $2 million on ads attacking Kelly's opponent, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who had previously been "A" rated by the N.R.A.
The Second Congressional District includes Chicago's South Side as well as some southern suburbs. The city has been plagued by gun violence, much coming at the hands of street gangs. Already this year gun deaths are running 16 percent ahead of last year's tragic total. Citizens from all walks of life have been touched by the problem.
The Congressional seat came open because of the resignation of Jesse Jackson, Jr., whose career came to an end in scandal. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so the winner of the primary is virtually assured of winning the seat in the April 9 general election.
Ms. Halvorson had opposed bans on assault type weapons and high capacity magazine clips, while supporting universal background checks for gun buyers. The N.R.A. spends millions of dollars on electing members of Congress who will stand up to gun control efforts. But Bloomberg's blitz tapped into a growing national sentiment that something has to be done about senseless gun violence.
Last month, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed on a Chicago street one week after she traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate with her high school band in President Barack Obama's inauguration. "As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy... He hits the one that hurts the most to lose," Chicago Police Officer Damon Stewart, Pendleton's godfather, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The head of the N.R.A. said, following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that a good guy with a gun is the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun. So Hadiya should have had a gun too? The N.R.A. considers any reasonable steps to curtail gun violence, like background checks, tougher restrictions on gun sales, bans against semi-automatic weapons and high capacity ammo clips, as an assault on the Second Amendment.
But, the numerous mass gun murders, from Newtown to Tucson, Ariz., from Aurora, Colo., to Milwaukee, Wisc., have become a call to action for many members of Congress. And now a gun control advocate from Chicago is one step closer to being elected to Congress, hopefully in time to vote yes on a historic piece of legislation that will be an important first step in making America's streets safer.