After nibbling around the edges of the gun control issue in the immediate aftermath of the school shootings in Connecticut, the White House on Tuesday made no bones about President Obama’s support for a series of gun control measures as part of an overall strategy to curb gun violence.
“He supports, and would support, legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, who also noted that Mr. Obama would support limits on large ammunition clips.
But Carney tried to repeatedly stress that it can’t only be about gun control.
“My point is that it goes beyond that,” Carney told reporters.
Carney though bristled when asked about why the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress had not pursued those same legislative goals during the first term of President Obama, and when Democrats ran both the House and Senate from 2007-2010.
Here is part of his exchange with ABC’s Jake Tapper, who wanted to know why the President had not done more in his first term in office on the gun issue:
MR. CARNEY: Jake, can I just remind you that the shooting happened four days ago.
Q This one did, Jay. But there have been a lot that have taken place over the last four years. It’s not as though gun violence became a problem on Friday.
MR. CARNEY: I completely agree with that. And I can only —
Q But it’s as though you’re completely oblivious to the fact that there have been shootings for years.
MR. CARNEY: That’s not true. I mean, the President — it is a fact that we have taken action — and the Department of Justice can fill you in on this — to enhance background checks. And background checks — when we talk about the fundamental issue of making sure that those who should not have weapons do not acquire them or cannot acquire them, enhancing our background check system is an important step that addresses specifically the problem.
So it is the case that we have taken action in this President’s first term. And he made clear on Sunday evening that he believes we need to take more action. And he looks forward to working with Congress and working with communities beyond Washington to help bring that about.
When you look back at the 110th and 111th Congresses, when Democrats were in charge on Capitol Hill from 2007 through 2010, there wasn’t much of a focus on gun control.
Basically, Democrats didn’t bring such measures like the extension of the assault weapons ban, or limits on high capacity magazines and the gun show loophole to the floor for a vote because it was seen as bad politics for their party.
Instead, the votes that were taken were efforts by Republicans to strengthen gun rights, efforts that put Democrats on the defensive.
President Obama even signed bills into law in his first term that expanded the right of people to carry loaded weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges and in their luggage on Amtrak trains, both backed by Republicans.
So, while there were a handful of Democrats who were pushing on gun control, their own party wasn’t bringing it up for a vote in the Congress – and that was most certainly true in 2009 and 2010, the first two years of the Obama Administration.
Now we should give the President his due on gun violence – he certainly didn’t ignore the issue – witness his speech after the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and his statements on the shootings this year in Aurora, Colorado.
But it didn’t translate into any legislative action by Democrats.
That’s one reason why I will wait and see whether gun control plans can really be pushed ahead next year in the Congress by Democrats, even after the outcry over this terrible tragedy in Connecticut.
Talk is cheap.
Actions speak louder than words.
And that is true in politics.