- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2012

When Mitt Romney speaks to the National Rifle Association on Friday it will bring into focus a major difference between him and President Obama: One is counting on Second Amendment voters to show up at the polls, while the other has sidestepped gun-related issues in the run-up to the election.

Mr. Romney’s address to the thousands gathered for the NRA’s annual meeting in St. Louis will give him the important opportunity to reach out to the gun-loving, conservative base that has seen the former Massachusetts governor as having taken stances all over the place in the past - even saying in 2007 that “I don’t see eye to eye with the NRA on every issue.”

“I think what the members are looking for is reassurance,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. “I think they are looking for a statement of support of the Second Amendment from Gov. Romney and we are confident that is what we will get.”

Mr. Romney though shot himself in his foot on this issue earlier in his career.

When running for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he said he supported the Brady Bill to impose background checks on gun sales, impose a waiting period to conduct the check, and restrict gun commerce. During the 2008 campaign for president, Mr. Romney said he would sign an assault-weapons ban and also had to back off claims to being lifelong hunter (he admitted having hunted just twice)

Fast forward to today: Now Mr. Romney says that existing gun-control laws are sufficient and doesn’t support any new regulations, a stance good enough for gun-rights activists who say their constitutional right to bear arms will be on the line on Election Day.

“If President Obama is re-elected as a lame duck there would be no political restraints on him,” said Joe Tartaro, president of Second Amendment Foundation.

Mr. Tartaro said the administration has indicated interest in making it more difficult for federally licensed dealers to sell guns and in reinstituting the federal assault-weapons ban that President Clinton ushered through Congress in 1994 and which expired in 2004.

But liberals say there is very little - perhaps nothing - at stake in this election when it comes to gun rights or gun laws.

“Despite the preposterous NRA fulminating about an Obama plot to snatch guns away from law-abiding citizens, it is almost certain that Obama would pursue the same course in a second term that he has to date: attempting to enforce laws on the books, track down gun traffickers and criminals, and shore up the background check system, but not seek any additional federal gun laws,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the progressive think tank Third Way and a White House official in the Clinton administration.

Mr. Bennett said “there is zero appetite for new gun laws in Congress, and the president cannot act on his own,” adding that the Democratic Party is not opposed to the Second Amendment anyway.

“Moreover, in 2008 Obama ran on the first Democratic platform in history to recognize Second Amendment rights. That will be a plank this year, too, and if he is re-elected, he will continue to honor his commitment to gun rights and responsibilities,” he said.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, agreed that the odds are against Congress passing new restrictions or regulations on gun ownership, but he warned that Mr. Obama can still use his executive power to curb the import and export of guns and ammunition, potentially raising the price on the products.

Mr. Gottlieb also warned that Mr. Obama can pack the federal court system with judges who would take a more restrictive view of the Second Amendment.

“It is really important to gun owners because there are going to be future picks not only to the Supreme Court, but also to the district courts and the appeals courts,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “With all the Second Amendment litigation going on right now, if Obama is able to stack the courts with his kind of judges, he basically will be slamming the courthouse doors in the face of gun owners.”

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