Burning Question

Has Obama sold out his gun-control principles?

President Obama started his political career calling for much tougher gun laws, but in the wake of the Aurora massacre he's promising to defend gun rights. What happened?

When Barack Obama first ran for national office in 1999, he was a vocal advocate for stronger gun laws. In an unsuccessful primary challenge against the congressman in his Chicago district, Bobby Rush, Obama called for a range of tough policies, including stiffer penalties for interstate transportation of firearms, a higher federal tax on gun sales, limiting gun purchases to one per month, and banning the sale of all firearms except "antiques" at gun shows. A decade later, after Friday's horrific massacre in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater during a screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, Obama avoided a confrontation with the powerful gun lobby by promising to protect gun rights under the Second Amendment while using current laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Has Obama abandoned his commitment to fighting gun violence with tighter gun laws?

Obama has sold out on gun control: The president's expression of sympathy for the victims in Aurora was "wrenching, touching, dramatic, sincere," says Roger Simon at Politico. It was also "baloney." His emotions were undoubtedly genuine — but "what was baloney is that he intends to do nothing about preventing such bloodshed and suffering in the future." Mitt Romney's no better of course, but Obama used to offer the victims of gun violence hope. Now he's just another of the "politicians who enable" the shooters."President Obama's gun baloney"

Don't blame Obama: It's the public and Congress who have forsaken gun control, says Robert Shrum at The Daily Beast. Obama won't change anything by mounting a quixotic fight for saner gun restrictions that will get smacked down in the House and Senate. Such "faux courage" would only "sacrifice his chances in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania," shattering his chances at re-election and ensuring that Romney would "further pack" the Supreme Court in favor of people who prize their gun rights over the lives of "the victims still to come." "For Obama, Romney, and America, gun control is dead"

If Obama has softened his stance, it's news to the NRA: Gun-control advocates were crushed to hear Obama's spokesman sounding like a member of the National Rifle Association, says Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor. Still, the NRA still thinks Obama is "the most anti-gun president in history," based on his record. Whatever the other side thinks, gun-rights advocates are convinced that if Obama wins, freeing him from worrying about another campaign, he will "will show his true colors on guns.""Colorado shooting: Why calling Obama 'anti-gun' is smart politics"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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