On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Obama supports renewing the Assault Weapons Ban, but pointed to Congress’s intransigence on the issue of gun control as the reason the administration hasn’t aggressively pursued the measure.
“He does support renewing the assault weapons ban,” Carney said at his press briefing, a day following the mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin that left seven people dead, including the gunman. During follow up questions on why more isn’t being done to reinstate the AWB, Carney added that, “there has been reluctance by Congress to pass that renewal.”
While running for president in 2008, Obama was a vocal supporter of renewing the federal ban on certain types of semi-automatic weapons, but after taking office Obama put gun control on the backburner, which many argue was a politically motivated decision, a concerted effort to avoid ruffling the feathers of gun owners in key swing states.
“The likelihood that a president in a closely contested election is going to do anything to mobilize the other candidate’s base approaches zero,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg News. “If there’s any possibility that the gun rights constituency isn’t enamored of Romney, and hence might be less likely to vote, why would you want to rile them up?”
The result has been what one might expect, Obama talking out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, stressing the importance of preserving 2nd Amendment rights while, on the other, calling on lawmakers to pursue “common-sense” gun control initiatives.
As Carney laid it out, “The president’s approach is that we should work with Congress where possible — and administratively where allowed — to advance common-sense measures that enhance our security, that keep deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them, under existing law, but that protects Second Amendment rights, which the president thinks is an important goal as well.”
Obama’s lack of clarity on guns has united gun control advocates and gun owners in the sense that both communities want to know where exactly he stands on the issue and what, if anything, he plans to do about it (many of us have a good idea, but it would be nice to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth).
The pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been calling on Obama, and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to release specific plans for reducing gun violence.
“Every day that goes by without action, 34 more people will be murdered with guns,” MAIG co-founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement yesterday. “The people who want to run this country need to tell us their plans to stop the bloodshed.”
MAIG has been running the following television ad during the Olympics, in the hope that it will elicit answers from the two candidates.
In the meantime, gun owners and gun control advocates are left to speculate about what Obama’s true intentions are on gun control.
“In his heart he knows the right thing to do but he’s not doing it,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an interview. “I think it’s fair to say it’s because of politics, which is a shame.”
“He has demonstrated on other issues like marriage equality his ability to very admirably lead and follow his heart and do the right thing,” Gross added. “I would propose that there’s no issue that’s more important than this.”
Larry Pratt, the executive director Gun Owners of America, saw the situation quite differently, in that a solid and unequivocal backing of the AWB would spell the end of his administration.
“We would encourage the president to come out for renewal of the Clinton gun ban. That would ensure that he’s defeated,” Pratt told Bloomberg News.
Pratt added that while Romney isn’t an ideal candidate, he supported a ban on “assault” weapons while he was governor of Massachusetts – he is better than the alternative.
“The need right now is to get rid of the president, so we’re willing to support Mitt Romney simply because that’s the instrument by which we’re going to remove the president,” Pratt said.