With the mid-terms looming large in a year where incumbents are expected to take a beating at the polls many Democratic candidates are favoring gun rights, aiming to win endorsements or positive ratings from pro-2nd amendment groups.
University of New Hampshire Professor of Politics, Andrew Smith, says Democrats started moving away from a strong anti-gun stance in the 90's when many in the party blamed the issue on massive political losses in Congress.
"I think it started with the 1994 elections where a lot of Democrats believe it was the NRA involvement in that election which caused the Democrats to lose the House and the Senate. So they backed off that issue," said Smith.
The National Rifle Association, by far the most powerful pro-gun lobby in the country, spends massive amounts of money to protect the right to bear arms, donating cash to candidates and political action committees. While Republicans receive the majority of the organizations endorsements and money, over the last 10 years, the NRA has dramatically increased funding for Democratic candidates.
"I think finally the message hit home that it's bad politics to be on the wrong side of the 2nd amendment at election time and I think you see that reflective in what's been happening on this issue amongst Democrats in Washington, DC and state legislatures around the country." said Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association.
"Gun ownership in the country amid labor unions folks runs from a low of 48% in California to a high of 60, 70, 80% in states like Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia. In the 2000 election, half of those union members had a firearm in their home voted for George Bush over Al Gore based on the gun issue and that cost Al Gore the presidency."
According to the center for responsive politics, a non-partisan group that tracks political spending, during the 2002 election cycle the NRA put 8% of their federal campaign contributions toward Democrats. This election cycle, they've received 26% percent.
Though the NRA has yet to release many key endorsements heading into the fall elections some major races could be affected when the word comes down. In the midst of a tough re-election campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could get a boost as the NRA considers endorsing him.
In Indiana, Democratic Senate candidate Brad Ellsworth, a former sheriff, may win the organization's endorsement over Republican Dan Coats.
The slow political shift has frustrated some Democrats that have long fought for tougher gun laws, like New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who's husband was killed in 1993 when a gunman randomly fired into a commuter train. She wishes fellow Democrats would fight the pressure exerted by the pro-gun lobby.
"They've been very open about saying... 'Carolyn, if the NRA comes against a bill, I gotta vote with the NRA.' They're not going to take that chance. I understand that," said McCarthy of her Democratic colleagues. "Does it bother me? Of course, it bothers me because I'm not trying to take away anyone's right to own a gun."
Depending on where a given candidate hails from, gun rights can be a major issue.
Take the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire where hunting is popular and the 2nd amendment has long been prioritized as a critical personal liberty.
"It's a freedom issue and that's what this is about," said Mitch Kopacz, president of Gun Owners of New Hampshire. "It's the canary in the cage if you will, the firearms... for free speech and other issues. If we have firearms we still have the rest of our rights."
While a contingent of voters will cast ballots strictly adhering to which candidate supports firearm freedoms, many others will prioritize other matters.
"Because the economy is bad and when the economy is bad all other issues get pushed to the side, including the issues about guns," explains Smith. "So I think what you're seeing with Democratic candidates is that the party has moved away from that more doctrinaire position against 2nd amendment rights."