Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Obama not likely to pull weapon-ban trigger(Compare to post "The Plan")
Obama not likely to pull weapon-ban trigger
By STEWART M. POWELL and JENNIFER A. DLOUHY
WASHINGTON — The last time a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress banned civilian sales of some types of military-style assault weapons, it took American voters barely seven weeks to hand Republicans control of Capitol Hill for the first time in 40 years.
One of the prominent casualties of that backlash was the sponsor in the House — Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, who lost his seat in Congress in 1994 after 42 years of service.
That lesson wasn’t lost on President Obama when he faced pressure from Mexican President Felipe Calderon to revive the defunct weapons’ ban to help combat drug cartel violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In Mexico, Obama insisted he had “not backed off” his campaign promise to make the expired ban permanent. But he bowed to political reality, nonetheless.
“None of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy,” Obama said. “And so, what we’ve focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws.”
Hints that Obama harbored ambitions to resurrect the restriction alarmed some Texas Republicans and reassured some Texas Democrats.
Fresh restrictions on the constitutional right to bear arms were “not the solution to the problems occurring in Mexico,” declared Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“It is not our responsibility to keep guns out of Mexico — and reviving the ban will not affect the way Mexico protects its border,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a former criminal court judge.
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said a ban would “not reduce crime on our borders.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the administration may be using border violence to “push its gun control agenda.”
The issue remains ending bloodshed by lawless drug cartels and “not a divisive return to policies that infringe upon the American people’s Second Amendment rights,“ emphasized Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said he supported the right to bear arms, but added that assault weapons “can and should be subjected to regulation and prohibition.”
Whatever the opinion, politicians and experts agreed Obama had no choice but to resist Mexican officials’ entreaties. He couldn’t win a battle in Congress to resurrect the ban.
“We’ve reached a point where there aren’t many people who will stick their political necks out to vote for sensible gun control,” says Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the second ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership.("Sensible" my buttcheeks!-S9)
Earlier this year, the Democratic-led Senate already dealt a body blow to gun control movement, when 22 Senate Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., joined 40 Republicans to shelve firearms restrictions in the nation’s capital.
Merely hinting at renewal provoked 65 House Democrats, many from swing districts, to warn the Obama administration that they would “actively oppose” any revival.
Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus of Montana — a bellwether western state carried by Obama — warned they would “strongly oppose any legislation that will infringe upon the rights of individual gun owners.”
Added to that, Obama risked squandering political capital and distracting attention from pressing domestic issues such as economic revival, overhauling the financial system and health care reform.
Not even prominent Democrats’ calls for resurrecting the ban in the wake of the slayings of four police officers in Oakland, Calif., and three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pa., could budge the new president.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Senate author of the 1994 assault weapons ban, said on CBS “60 Minutes” on April 12 that she has no intention of reintroducing the assault weapons ban — for now.
Eventually, Feinstein said, “I’ll pick the time and the place, no question about it.”
Latest nationwide polls show “little evidence that gun control is at the moment a high priority for Americans,” says the Gallup Poll’s “Pulse of Democracy.”
Barely 49 percent of those surveyed said they wanted tighter laws governing firearms sales — the lowest percentage since 1990.
Americans remain evenly divided on whether to make it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess assault rifles.
“There’s a realization on Capitol Hill that the 1994 law was ineffective,” says Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “The logical question is why should we resurrect a law that was proven to be ineffective?”(What about unconstitutional!?-S9)
Even gun control advocates are focusing on achieving other changes rather than reviving the ban. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wants background checks required on all gun sales including those at gun shows.
“The laws on the books aren’t getting the job done,” says Paul Helmke, the president.
Obama’s stance in Mexico represented a U-turn.
He backed the ban during his presidential campaign. His transition team listed “making the expired federal assault weapons ban permanent” a goal of the incoming administration.
“I believe we need to renew — not roll back — this common sense gun law,” Obama told the Chicago Tribune during his Senate campaign in 2004 when the assault weapons ban was expiring.
Has Obama reneged?
”He supports it,“ White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. “The president is also, though, focused on taking actions to stem the flow of guns moving south that go across the border (and) making progress on something that we are likely to see progress on.”
The narrow ban ("Narrow"? What a downplay that term is! That ban was sweeping and arbitrary!-S9) that was adopted in 1994 and expired in 2004 barred the sale of 19 military-style assault weapons, “copy-cat” models and some high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.