2010-02-12 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Changing Gun Laws
Commentary By Peter Hamm
Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence

At a February 25, 2009 press conference with the Attorney General of Mexico, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reminded the audience of President Obama’s campaign statements favoring legislation “making the expired Federal assault weapons ban permanent.” Three weeks later, Holder said of a possible assault weapons ban, “I think what we’re going to do is try to enforce the laws that we have on the books.” Three weeks after that, CBS anchor Katie Couric interviewed Holder and asked about the assault weapons ban change. Holder responded. “I look forward to working with the NRA to come up with ways in which we can use common sense approaches to reduce the level of violence that we see.”

On March 25, 2009 in Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded that an assault weapons ban would be difficult, but said that the weapons “don’t belong on anyone’s street.” Asked about her comment, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged that President Obama had supported the ban as a candidate, but said he had no plans to ask Congress to reinstate it.

A few weeks later, Gibbs added that “the President believes particularly that there are other strategies that we can take to enforce the laws that are already on our books.”

Obama’s avoidance of the issue so far is remarkable for many reasons, but one is that the level of hateful rhetoric against him by gun rights extremists continues unabated. The NRA’s website remains live a year after the conclusion of the 2008 Presidential election. A young man in Pittsburgh reportedly indicated that he feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” before he murdered three police officers last year.

“The gun lobby’s message during the campaign was ‘if elected, Barack Obama would be the most anti-gun president in American history,’” Helmke said. “Last week, one journalist wrote that the National Rifle Association ‘should erect a statue of Barack Obama in front of its D.C. headquarters’ because he ‘has done more for firearm owners than any President in recent history.’

Avoiding the gun issue has done nothing to stop or slow the political attacks from the gun extremists.”

Last summer, after gun rights zealots began displaying firearms openly at “town hall” meetings as well as at the President’s public events, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs went out of his way to defend the carrying of these weapons.

Rather than condemning these security threats, he stated, “There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally. Those laws don’t change when the president comes to your state or locality.”

“This administration’s first year policy on gun violence prevention was, in a word, evasion,” Helmke said. “I am hopeful that President Obama will recommit to his long-held values and concerns on this issue. Lives literally hang in the balance.”

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a national non-profit organization working to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in America, through education, research, and legal advocacy. The programs of the Brady Center complement the legislative and grassroots mobilization of its sister organization, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters.

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