Is the White House giving up on gun control?
Of course not. Well, at least not ostensibly. On Tuesday, at the Executive Office Building, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the White House’s agenda on gun control, assuring those in attendance that both him and President Obama “haven’t given up” on reforming the nation’s gun laws.
In his address, Biden claimed that the landscape has shifted in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, arguing that those lawmakers who openly oppose or vote against gun control will face severe backlash from their constituents.
“I assure you, the one thing that each of us have been saying to our colleagues about these votes is the country has changed,” Biden said. “You will pay a price, a political price, for not, for not getting engaged and dealing with gun safety.”
Biden alluded to several favorability polls that were taken after the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey expanded background check amendment, which would have required criminal background checks for gun sales made over the Internet or at gun shows.
“I will not mention names, but look at those who voted no, and look at what their poll results are in their states immediately after voting no,” Biden said. “Many who were popular and were in the 50s and 60s now find their favorable ratings in the 40s.”
While this is true in some cases, e.g. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) both witnessed a drop in their numbers after the vote, Biden may be overstating the political leverage the gun-control movement wields over lawmakers.
For one thing, several polls have showed that support for gun control is waning nationwide. For another, there has been equal, if not greater, backlash for politicians who’ve supported gun control measures at the state level.
Consider, for example, the constant pressure New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under for ramming through the significantly flawed NY SAFE Act or the two Colorado state lawmakers who are being recalled for supporting mandatory background checks on all firearm transfers as well as magazine capacity limits.
What’s also fascinating, and as POLITICO pointed out, the White House has actually pulled back on its push for new gun laws:
Biden chief of staff Bruce Reed’s Friday White House strategy meetings for representatives of gun control groups ended weeks ago. The barnstorming tour Biden pledged would pressure senators who voted against background checks hasn’t materialized.
No new sponsors or votes for the background check bill have emerged publicly. Neither has any sort of timeline for when Congress might take up the measure again.
Given all of this one can reasonably conclude that the White House is running on faith. That is, both the vice president and the president recognize that they are behind the eight ball with respect to enacting federal gun control and that unless something significant happens (another mass shooting) or unless gun control advocacy groups can pull off a miracle and convince pro-gun lawmakers to switch positions, they’re fighting an uphill battle — which may be why Biden is (a) overselling the White House’s progress on the issue (what progress?) and (b) once again, calling on Congress to take action.
“As proud as the president is of the progress we’ve made, we need Congress to act,” Biden said. “The American people are demanding it.”