The White House is considering a broad range of measures to curb gun violence in the wake of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — not just a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines — reports Philip Rucker at The Washington Post. President Obama's gun violence working group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, is also "seriously considering" proposing universal background checks for gun purchases, including at gun shows; tracking firearms sales through a national database; strengthening mental health checks; and increasing penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.
Given its pugilistic response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, the National Rifle Association will undoubtedly oppose most if not all of these measures, as will its mainly GOP allies in Congress. But the Obama administration is brainstorming ways to work around the NRA, including getting Walmart and other major gun retailers on board. "This makes political sense," says Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller, who nonetheless disparages the idea as a "crony capitalism" route to gun control. "Businesses that sell guns would ostensibly benefit financially" from closing the "gun show loophole," for example. Still, regulating guns isn't a clear red-and-blue issue politically, and while Republicans are in fact lining up against any new gun control measures, it's not clear if the Obama team is prepared to tackle the more politically fraught opposition of fellow Democrats.
Some high-profile NRA-backed Democrats have come out in support of new gun-control measures, but it only takes one or two senators to kill any legislation, and newly seated Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is already shaping up to be one of those "nay" votes. "I think you need to put everything on the table, but what I hear from the administration — and if The Washington Post is to be believed — that's way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about," she said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "And it's not going to pass."
"Hoo boy," says John Cole at Balloon Juice. "It just shows you how insane our current gun climate is that any of these things is controversial at all," but with Blue Dog Democrats like Heitkamp "breaking out the shiv," we're in for one messy fight. Look, none of the proposed measures "would have stopped the Newtown atrocity," since the shooter stole the weapons from his mother, says Moe Lane at RedState. But Democrats won't be the ones to stop this nonsense from Obama.
I'm not going to tell you that Nothing Will Ever Pass. Politics doesn't work like that. What I am saying is that initiatives like this reveal pretty comprehensively that the Democratic Party is, at bottom, uncomfortable on an institutional level with the very concept of guns.... While I do not expect Congress to pass any serious legislation along those lines while the GOP controls the House, we are going to see some notable defections among the Democrats. If ObamaCare taught us nothing else, it taught us that a Democratic politician is a Democrat first, a Democrat second — and, say, pro-life a distant third. So I recommend that nobody trust anybody in the Democratic Party to keep from mucking with the Second Amendment. [RedState]
It's worth noting that the nation's first assault-weapons ban was enacted by a Republican, California Gov. George "Iron Duke" Deukmejian, says George Skelton at The Los Angeles Times. What's even more remarkable is that "Deukmejian owed his gubernatorial election in 1982, in large part, to gun owners." But at the start of his second term, "a young, racist drifter clad in combat gear and armed with an AK-47 assault rifle shot up a schoolyard in Stockton, killing five Southeast Asian immigrant children," and Deukmejian changed his mind, then "fought off his old allies in the gun lobby and their Republican subservients in the Legislature." And given his enduring popularity, he "wasn't even grazed in the gun fight."
I called Deukmejian last week... to ask why he had reversed course on gun control so quickly. "My thoughts simply were that regardless of what argument somebody might make about having the right to own and possess a gun, there was no common sense reason for someone to have an assault weapon," the former governor, now 84, told me. In fact, Deukmejian said, he supports U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's current effort to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that existed for 10 years until Congress let it expire in 2004.... We could use a new Iron Duke or two in Sacramento and Washington. [Los Angeles Times]