It seems to have been lost in the fog that, last night, President Obama appeared to put his weight behind a new assault-weapons ban. Per the Chicago Tribune:
Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney engaged in a rare tussle over gun control on Tuesday, and Obama opened the door to pushing for a ban on assault weapons if he wins a second term.
During their second election debate, both men largely danced around a gun-control question, a reflection of how they are wary of offending voters who support gun rights.
However, Obama did say that he would back an assault-weapons ban like the one President Bill Clinton signed in 1994. That law expired in 2004 without being renewed by Congress.
I asked recently whether Obama was, as his spokesman Jay Carney claimed, “fine” with the “existing law,” and I pointed to Eric Holder’s comments on the matter in support of my skepticism:
Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, has insisted since he took office that the administration wished to restore the expired assault weapons ban. At a press conference in 2009, Holder said that “there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.” The Attorney General reiterated his commitment to this position in testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as recently as February of this year.
Nonetheless, last night was, I think, the first time that the president has said himself that he’d seek such a move:
“What I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally,” Obama said during the debate at Hofstra University. “Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.”
America is increasingly conservative on the gun issue, and Bill Clinton’s 1994 “assault weapons” ban hurt him badly. Keep talking, Mr. President.