As Vice President Joe Biden and his gun-safety task force prepare a list of recommendations for President Obama this week, the head of the National Rifle Association suggests that Team Obama can save itself the effort on at least two likely proposals, a ban on selling military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips. Leaving open the caveat that "you don't want to make predictions" when "a president takes all the power of his office" and is "willing to expend political capital," NRA President David Keene nonetheless told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday, "I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," nor a ban on high-capacity clips.
Despite the murder of 20 first graders last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., "I'm willing to say that guns in this country have as much influence as they always have, and perhaps more," Keene added. The NRA, while open to barring the mentally ill from buying guns, is "not willing to compromise on people's rights when there's no evidence that doing so will solve the problem." Any gun control measures have a better shot in the Democratic-controlled Senate than in the GOP-run House, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is equally dismissive of an assault weapons ban's chance of success in the upper chamber of Congress.
There is plenty of pessimism on the Left, too, says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite. Still, "hearing a well-respected, plugged-in liberal like Ezra Klein" say on MSNBC's Morning Joe last Thursday "that even a weak assault weapons ban will be a 'very large lift' is (a little bit) like hearing Walter Cronkite say that the Vietnam War was unwinnable." Klein, a Washington Post "superwonk," says that Obama "can't do a ton" through executive orders and little else will pass the House. And "as depressing as that is, and as attractive as it is not to believe it, Klein is probably right," says Christopher.
You can't pass a bran muffin through the House with prune juice these days, and even with the seemingly unprecedented energy around the issue of reducing gun violence, even with the overwhelming public support for most of the measures under consideration, that body has the cultural nervous system of a brontosaurus. By the time they feel the pitchforks, the moment will have passed. [Mediaite]
The NRA isn't bulletproof, says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in the New York Daily News. "Last November, I supported five candidates for Congress who were running against NRA-backed candidates. Four of them won, showing that the NRA's power is more myth than reality." Beating the gun lobby takes money, but also popular will, and nearly a million people have signed the bipartisan MAIG's petition demanding universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles and large magazines in the month since the Sandy Hook massacre. "The lobbyists for groups like the NRA try to twist the issue of gun violence into a debate over the Second Amendment," but it's not. "The Supreme Court has ruled it is constitutional to place reasonable restrictions on guns," and if Congress fails to act, 48,000 Americans will needlessly die from gun violence over the next four years.
The fight for more gun control isn't against the NRA so much as it is "a battle against the clock," and the NRA, says John Dickerson at Slate. The calculus is, how long after a tragedy like Sandy Hook "can the emotion be sustained and how long can the NRA organization wait it out?" Gun control advocates say "lawmakers have about 30 days to channel public outrage toward enacting laws that might prevent another mass killing," and the 30-day mark was Sunday. Given the terrible scope of the killing, they might have a little bit longer, but "there is only one person who can really keep the window open: President Obama."
There are two avenues for change emerging out of the discussions held by Vice President Biden. One is a long list of potential legislative changes.... The second, larger task, as administration officials describe it, is broader and more fuzzy. It requires changing the culture of guns in America and shifting the conversation from one of protecting gun rights enshrined in the Constitution to one of protecting children. It is this second task for which the president is qualified above all others.... when Vice President Biden talks about this kind of cultural change, he talks about seat belts as much as the 1994 assault weapons ban he helped author. Changing public attitudes about seat belts took more than legislation to make it the norm.
The reason the president is qualified for this larger task is that it doesn't require Congress. He can give speeches, use the bully pulpit, fire up his campaign organization, and generally engage all of his best tools.... The message the president wants to send is that he's not trying to trample on hunters and sportsmen. That's a necessary precursor to any legislation because advocates for reform argue that the only way they will be able to build popular and political support is if they can split the NRA from its leadership. If the membership can be convinced that the president is not an ideologue trying to grab their guns, they will be less likely to believe the NRA leadership who paint him that way.... Few think that an assault weapons ban is possible, though the president will push for one. A plan for stronger background checks is likely to have more support, as are laws that would crack down on gun trafficking. Whether the president can even build support for that depends on his will — and how long he can keep the time from running out. [Slate]
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- This is how the U.S. thinks China could invade Taiwan
- Can we lead spiritually fulfilling lives without religion?
- Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too.
- Surviving a plane crash
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week