President Obama is in a fix over firearms. He needs to win undecided voters in the swing states to be re-elected, but these areas are largely pro-gun. So after years of trying to dodge the issue, Mr. Obama let it slip in Tuesday’s presidential debate that he’d push a gun ban in a second term. It’s a revelation that could sway the election.
In the town-hall event at Hofstra University, “undecided” voter Nina Gonzalez asked the president what he’d done to limit the availability of assault weapons. Mr. Obama feigned support for the Second Amendment before calling for regulation of inexpensive handguns, automatic weapons and resurrecting the so-called assault-weapons ban. “I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal,” Mitt Romney countered.
The president’s plan to revive the Clinton-era gun law won’t make America safer. “He wants to reinstate and expand on a ban that was in place for 10 years which, by all evidence, did nothing to reduce crime,” Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Washington Times. “In the eight years since the ban sunsetted, gun ownership has gone up, so more firearms are in civilian possession than ever before in the United States. At the same time, crime is at its lowest level since the early 1960s and so are accidents.”
The controversial law had no effect because it prohibited weapons that came with accessories like pistol grips, collapsing stocks and bayonet lugs. “This ‘assault-weapon’ ban didn’t impact the rate of fire, still one trigger pull for one bullet. It just took away some of the cosmetics,” Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells, Inc. — the world’s largest retailer of gun parts, accessories and ammunition — explained in an interview. “Going forward, if they re-identify the characteristics, and it’s not in line with the American people, it could be anything that falls into that category of appearing to be an ‘assault weapon.’ “
Mr. Obama said he wants to do something to get “automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill” because they “are weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters [that] don’t belong on our streets.” He’s being deliberately confusing. Automatic firearms, also known as machine guns, have been heavily regulated in the civilian market since 1934, and their manufacture for civilian use has been banned since 1986.
The president’s most ominous suggestion was that a ban on “cheap handguns” could be next on the agenda. “It would just hurt people who live in high-crime, poor areas and can’t spend more on a firearm,” said Mr. Keane.
Gun owners finally got Mr. Obama on the record about what he would do if he wins Nov. 6. Consider it fair warning.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.