Obama and Romney don’t want to touch the gun debate
Why the presidential candidates aren’t calling for greater restrictions on guns following the shooting.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday indicated that the mass shooting inside a Colorado movie theater will not cause him to change his stance against national gun-control laws.
The Aurora, Colo. shooting, which claimed 12 lives and injured 71, has renewed the debate over the nation’s gun laws, specifically over whether it should be legal to purchase the semi-automatic rifle and large ammunition drum that the alleged shooter, James Homes, used in his attack.
“I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy,” Romney told CNBC.
Romney added that he believes stricter laws would not have prevented the shooting.
“There are—were, of course, very stringent laws which existed in Aurora, Colorado,” he said. “Our challenge is not the laws, our challenge is people who, obviously, are distracted from reality and do unthinkable, unimaginable, inexplicable things.”
The tragic shooting appeared to temporarily quell the partisan nature of the campaign, but others have said it’s time to press the candidates about their stance on gun laws.
Romney’s position on guns has appeared to shift over the years. He signed a permanent assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts in 2004, the same year that the federal ban expired. Certain versions of the type of gun used in the shooting, the AR-15, would have been illegal under the federal ban. The high-capacity magazine he used remains illegal under Massachusetts law.
“I believe the people should have the right to bear arms, but I don’t believe that we have to have assault weapons as part of our personal arsenal,” he said on Fox News in 2004, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But in his run up to his first presidential campaign in 2008, Romney began to loosen his stance on gun laws. He joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 2006 and campaigned for the group’s endorsement in 2007, as Business Insider notes.
Romney explained his assault weapons ban Monday, saying that it was brokered through negotiations between gun-rights and gun-control advocates.
“Well, actually the law that we signed in Massachusetts was a combination of efforts both on the part of those that were for additional gun rights and those that opposed gun rights, and they came together and made some changes that provided, I think, a better environment for both,” he said. “That’s why both sides came to celebrate the signing of the bill. Where there are opportunities for people of reasonable minds to come together and find common ground, that’s the kind of legislation I like.”
Romney, meanwhile, has gone after President Obama on the gun issue, telling NRA members in a speech in April that Obama has not stood up for gun rights.
“We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those who seek to protect their home and family,” Romney said, as Yahoo! News reported. “President Obama has not; I will.”
Obama supported stricter gun-control measures before entering the White House, like reinstating the assault weapons ban, but he has remained virtually silent on the issue since taking office. That didn’t change in the aftermath of the Colorado shooting.
Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One Sunday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the president’s view is that “we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them with existing law.”
Simply put, the politics of the gun issue are tough. There is little public support for additional gun laws and the conservative gun-rights lobby, led by the NRA, has effectively squelched momentum for any push for more laws.
But liberal lawmakers and activists (as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg(I)) have clamored for new laws that restrict firearms sales. And some political observers, such as Ron Brownstein, point out Obama might not be as much to lose over a fight over guns than many believe.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a staunch gun control proponent, credited a lack of political courage for the dormant debate on gun laws.
“A lot of politicians know it’s the right thing to try to fight for something to save lives,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “They don’t have a spine anymore. They pander to who’s giving them money.”
(Photo: Flickr, highboom)