Knowing that any huge gun bill is doomed in Congress, and aware that he needs to show America how eager he is to Do Something, The One lurches towards plan B — i.e. including Wayne LaPierre’s proposal for more federally-funded security in schools as part of his package of recommendations on reducing gun violence:
Pres Obama will also propose federal funds for schools to provide armed police security.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) January 16, 2013
I guess the ad worked, huh?
The left mocked this idea after LaPierre’s presser last month because more school security guards does nothing to achieve their goal of reducing gun ownership among the population. (I’m keen myself to hear from Obama and the NRA what other spending we should cut to pay for this.) But it polls well with the public: According to Pew, more Americans favor this than banning assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. If you’re O, why not toss it out there and see how Republicans react? Incorporating an NRA suggestion will make the Democratic bill look that much more “reasonable” and bipartisan. Now the ball’s in the GOP’s court to either pass something along these lines, which gives Obama a limited political victory, or torpedo it and endure the inevitable “Republicans won’t even listen to Wayne LaPierre on gun violence” news stories.
Meanwhile, to follow up on Ed’s post, how sure are we that O will roll out his plans for executive orders on guns at today’s big presser with Biden? Chris Cillizza makes a fair point that announcing a big batch of EOs right up front could backfire:
The President acting alone would stoke those fears [of gun confiscation] and gin up Republicans to keep any sort of larger legislation — like, say, an assault weapons ban — from moving through Congress. It would likely be seen as a poison-the-well moment from which the debate might never recover to a place where bipartisan compromise was possible.
President Obama and his senior strategists are certainly aware of the danger of appearing to make (or change) law by fiat. If Obama goes big on executive orders later today, it’s likely because he has made the calculation that no significant number of Republicans are going to be with him on any sort of gun control measure and, therefore, the only way to get some of these things done is through his powers as the country’s chief executive.
Perhaps. But he also could run the risk of jeopardizing more broad-reaching pieces of his gun agenda if Democratic Senators up for re-election in pro-gun states like Louisiana, Arkansas and South Dakota balk at getting behind his legislative solutions in the wake of an uproar over the executive orders.
Any executive orders he issues will deal with the margins of gun control but Cillizza’s right that the GOP will use them for leverage. If O walks out today and rattles off 19 things he plans to do unilaterally, Republicans will argue that (a) they’re now duty-bound to halt the Democrats’ power grab by blocking any big new gun bills in Congress and (b) the fact that Obama’s already done so much via executive order means that there’s less need for Congress to act too. But if he doesn’t rattle off what he plans to do today and instead says he intends to act unilaterally later depending upon what Congress does, that’ll sound sinister, a sort of “pass gun control or I’ll pass it myself” ultimatum which can also be exploited by Republicans politically. Maybe he’ll compromise by rolling out a few specific executive actions today while holding a few back for after this all falls apart in Congress. He’s got a bunch of skittish Democrats in the Senate to worry about too. Any sudden moves could cause a stampede.
Exit question: How committed to a tough fight can the White House be if they’re already signaling that Obama will sign a gun bill that lacks an assault-weapons ban?