Carney: Obama will "actively support" Dems' push for new assault weapons ban

A bit more specific than he was yesterday, huh? Sounds like those cabinet chats on new gun-control measures concentrated a few minds.

“He is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters, publicly backing for the first time legislation Feinstein plans to introduce. The White House had previously been reluctant to publicly named any specific action it might support in an effort to prevent future massacres.

“[The President] supports — and would support legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called gun show loophole, and there are other elements of gun law — gun legislation that he could support,” Carney said. “People have talked about high- capacity ammunition clips, for example, and that is something, certainly, that he would be interested in looking at,” he added.

As a matter of pure politics, it makes all the sense in the world for him to bypass ticky-tack measures like banning high-capacity magazines and reach for a full assault weapons ban. Not only is he a lame duck, he’s suddenly getting cover on this from Democrats who would have kneecapped him on it six weeks ago. As Rahm Emanuel reminded us today, The One has always supported the ban; any hints to the contrary were nothing more than campaign-trail garbage shoveled at gullible rural Democrats whose votes he needed in purplish states like Pennsylvania. The odds of him getting a new ban through both houses of Congress are south of zero, but that’s okay. By asking for a lot up front, he might soften up Senate Republicans for an eventual compromise on the magazines or on background checks for private gun sales. (His ridiculous fiscal-cliff opening bid worked out reasonably well by softening Boehner up, no?) If Senate Republicans force him to drop the AWB in favor of something more modest, then he can (a) screech about how GOP obstructionism is placing our children in danger while (b) agreeing to the more modest bill in the interest of moving it to the House and putting Boehner and the GOP caucus on the hot seat.

This isn’t really about stopping the next Adam Lanza, in other words. Politically, for the White House, it’s about maximizing O’s leverage in future negotiations with Republicans on other issues by forcing them to take positions on this one that’ll further degrade their popularity and, by extension, their political capital. Policy-wise, it’s about trying to reduce gun violence more broadly, not preventing instances of mass murder. As some liberals admit, there’s not much that can be done legislatively to stop a determined rampage killer but there may be things that can be done that’ll cut the death toll from other types of shootings. They’re leveraging public grief over the victims of Sandy Hook, in other words, to advance a gun-control agenda that’s not really about Sandy Hook or Aurora or Virginia Tech. As a wise man once said: Never let a serious crisis go to waste. That’s smart politics, but I do wonder how the left’s momentum on this will hold up if/when they’re forced to start conceding that their proposals wouldn’t have done much good if enacted before last Friday. To take the most obvious example, Lanza’s rifle apparently did not qualify as an “assault weapon” under either Connecticut state law or the now-expired federal ban. Even if it had, there’s no earthly way that a new AWB would ban semiautomatic pistols or rifles categorically, despite the fact that the larger magazines and quick reloading made possible by semiautomatics are, supposedly, keys to higher death tolls. Not only would an AWB not stop the worst of the worst, in other words, it wouldn’t even stop the bad. But it’s something, and — crucially — it might move the Overton window on this issue enough to make the public more accepting of more aggressive gun-control measures later when the AWB inevitably fails to achieve much. (Just as single-payer will be the “remedy” when ObamaCare fails and more intrusive government policing of one’s diet will be the remedy when Bloomberg’s dumb “Big Gulp” ban fails, the only real “remedy” to gun-control failure is more gun control.) Too bad for liberals it’s not going to happen. But they’ll get some nice political mileage from it if/when they force Boehner and the House to torpedo it.

Here comes the pushback, though — the first statement from the NRA since the Sandy Hook shootings:

National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

Meaningful policy contributions, i.e. concessions, or some other form of contribution? I assume they’re going to call for better treatment options for the mentally ill to refocus the debate that way rather than on guns. But guess what: A more aggressive mental-health regime might not have stopped Lanza either.

Exit question: Why do gun manufacturers continue to make guns that look like military weapons even though they aren’t? I don’t care if the market demands it; you’re doing gun-control fans a huge favor by following that aesthetic. My hunch is that much of the power in the term “assault weapons” comes less from the term itself than from the fact that it frequently appears in newspapers alongside photos of an AR-15, which looks to an untrained eye like something you’d see in a Rambo movie. Rationally I know it’s not a machine gun but I recoil from it anyway in a way that I don’t when looking at pics of more traditional rifles. Want to make potential gun-grabbers more at ease with semiautomatics? Then make them look as little like automatics as possible.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023