The kind of gun control laws that were making it so ridiculously difficult for me to get a gun for self-defense in D.C. have been out of reach for the anti-gun politicians on the national level since 1994.
Capitol Hill has been pro-gun since the Republican takeover of the House that year, in the wake of President Clinton signing the “assault weapons” ban. No major anti-Second Amendment legislation has passed Congress in 20 years.
President Obama may have thought he finally had his chance after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the will of the people blocked him, for now.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never seemed to believe the legislation could pass, but he was pressured by the White House to bring it up for a vote. Sources familiar with the machinations behind the failed anti-gun bills in April 2013 believe Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were in a rush to push the issue before the memory of Sandy Hook faded.
Politically, Mr. Obama wanted to appease his base by showing he was doing something on an issue that is a high priority for them. He also wanted to force Republicans to be on the record voting against his “common sense” gun control proposals — so he could use those votes against them to elect more Democrats to Congress in 2014.
The president also genuinely believes in limiting gun rights and didn’t want to pass up an opportunity — even if it was a long shot — to achieve it on the federal level. The publicity surrounding the push for federal gun control laws only helped their anti-gun campaigns in the states, where they had a better shot at actually getting legislation passed.
I interviewed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in June about Mr. Obama’s actions and reactions to the gun-control fight on Capitol Hill. “He overreached and overplayed his hand. Democrats in his own party sitting in red states weren’t going to walk off a plank on a flawed bill that wouldn’t even do what it said. The bill doesn’t even match up to his rhetoric.”
After the vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks to private transactions failed, the president was enraged. Mr. Obama disregarded the possibility that pro-gun senators may simply believe in the Bill of Rights. Defiant, he said it was a “pretty shameful day for Washington” and promised “this effort is not over.”
The next day, Mr. Reid pulled the entire legislation from a vote. “I have spoken with the president. He and I agree that the best way to keep working toward passing a background check bill is to hit pause and freeze the background check bill where it is,” Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. But we should make no mistake; this debate is not over. In fact, this fight is just beginning.”
“The Senate win was an important battle in a much longer war, and we fully expect them to make another run,” Christopher Cox, head of the NRA’s legislative arm, told me. “They are either going to tweak the language slightly to try to secure additional votes or they’re going to wait until the next tragedy — like they did with this one — to try to ram it through.”
Mr. Cox continued, “What’s unfortunate about all of this is that they are doing nothing for the overall goal of all Americans of making sure that criminals and people with mental health disorders who are dangers to themselves and others don’t have access to a firearm.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Priebus said that Mr. Obama’s drama in the Rose Garden and swearing up and down that the legislation would save lives affected public sentiment. “He has mastered the art of having people judge him by the things he says, rather than what he does. And he’s good at it, and that’s our problem.”