Will the 1994 'assault weapons effect' play in the 2018 midterms?

Does the specter of the now expired 1994 assault weapons ban haunt the gun-control Democrats?  Former Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn raises the question at thehill.com:

Democrats in 1994 believe they paid a heavy price for their votes for an assault rifle ban, and it was not renewed, even under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress.  Even when he had even more than 60 senators, President Obama did not move gun legislation.

Following passage of the 1994 gun control law by a Democratic Congress and president, the Democrats lost 54 seats in the House, losing majority control for the first time in 40 years, and also lost nine seats and the majority in the Senate.  Coincidentally, the Senate class that was up for election in 1994 is the same class that is up for election in 2018.

While there were other factors in the Democrats' 1994 losses, including Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," the Democrats have since been wary of going too far with gun control, as The New York Times wrote following the 2016 Orlando, Fla. mass shooting:

Some Democrats believe the passage of the 1994 ban contributed to the Republican takeover of the House that year, and the memory of that political impact has been sobering for gun-control advocates.

Such sobriety has been noticeably absent in the recent attempts to lay the blame for the Parkland, Fla. shooting at the doors of the NRA and, by extension, its gun-owning members.  Democrats hoping to win control of the House and Senate in 2018 are now caught between the media campaign to demonize the NRA and the electoral campaign to win the support of red-state gun owners.

Even as 150 House Democrats introduced a bill this week "banning semi-automatic firearms," The New York Times highlights the dilemma for Democrats in the 2018 midterms:

In 2018, Democrats' ability to compete in statewide elections in the Midwest and in the South may depend on candidates' ability to court gun owners, many of whom fiercely oppose new regulations.

But the Times counters that the Parkland school shooting has "pushed even red- and purple-state [sic] Democrats to move abruptly" toward gun control advocates, with "moderates" recognizing that "bearing the mark of the NRA [National Rifle Association] could be fatal in their primaries." 

The Times writers, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, quote several Democratic candidates who are distancing themselves from past support of the NRA, including one who "is now determined 'to get the NRA out of the way.'"

But making the NRA the scapegoat risks backfiring on the Democrats.  Jonathan Tobin at nypost.com contends that the media campaign to villainize the NRA has "contributed to a situation in which the NRA is under siege like never before."

Tobin maintains that the attacks on the NRA are "the product of a mindset that sees the NRA as merely a Washington lobbying outfit rather than also a mass-membership organization with support from people who vote":

[O]nce liberals start engaging in an all-out culture war in which the NRA and its members are depicted as little better than Nazis, then the half of the country that lives in places where gun ownership is a normal part of life is bound to rally around them.

Tobin adds that "a broad effort to stigmatize all supporters of gun rights," which is arguably already well under way, will cause "the pendulum" to "swiftly swing back in the other direction," thus "ensuring that gun-rights supporters' hold on red-state America will remain unshaken."

At least one Democrat in a Trump state recognizes that his election needs the support of gun-owners:

Just last week, Conor Lamb, a Democrat running a tenacious special election campaign in a conservative House district in southwestern Pennsylvania, rebuffed calls for new gun laws after the Parkland shooting.

Tobin says the NRA is "right when it suspects that the ultimate goal of many on the left is to, by one means or another, effectively repeal the Second Amendment."  The intensity of the post-Parkland media and political campaign against the NRA simply reinforces that belief among many gun owners.

Red-state Democrats caught between anti-NRA vitriol and gun-owning voters should be wary of the 1994 effect in the 2018 midterm elections.