Franken: I'm not so sure about the assault-weapons ban; Update: "I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons"

As Instapundit writes, “If Al Franken is undecided …” Senator Al Franken spoke in Rochester in support of universal background checks and magazine-capacity limits, but refused to endorse the centerpiece of Barack Obama’s gun-control push yesterday:

On the day that President Obama proposed a sweeping package of gun-control measures, U.S. Sen. Al Franken signaled his support for several components of Obama’s plan.

Franken, speaking during a press event in Rochester, said he supports limits on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and tightening the nation’s system of background checks. But, he declined to say whether he supported a ban on assault weapons, a key provision of the president’s plan. …

Franken’s equivocal response illustrates the rocky passage the president’s aggressive gun-control plan is likely to face in Congress, where legislators will attempt to balance public safety issues with recreational and economic concerns. Minnesota is home to a vibrant gun culture, as well as many retail and gun manufacturing outlets. In talking to Minnesota deer hunters, Franken noted that many use semi-automatic rifles, but use a clip that holds only a few rounds.

“I think most people agree that you don’t need 30 rounds to bring down a deer,” Franken said in arguing for ammunition magazine limits.

Some bills might not even get to a vote in the GOP-run House of Representatives. And like many Senate Democrats, Franken is up for re-election in 2014, and any decisions made with regard to gun control could reverberate in congressional elections two years from now.

When pressed on the issue, Franken’s spokeman replied, “I guess I don’t have an answer for you.”  That is in itself an answer, especially coming from the darling of the Left in 2008.  Franken, who built his political standing during a stint on the defunct hard-left Air America radio network, would seem like a slam-dunk for a return of an assault-weapons ban that managed to pass during the relatively centrist Clinton administration.

And yet, here we are.  Is Franken worried about 2014? I’d guess not, although that may not be a slam-dunk, either.  He has more than a million dollars in his coffers already, and he’s facing a state GOP in considerable disarray, one that hasn’t won a statewide office since 2006, and which lost the legislature last November.  The big worry for Franken will be Tim Pawlenty, who could very easily make Franken look extreme in an election, and who could raise large amounts of money without a strong state GOP, but so far at least Pawlenty has remained quiet.

Don’t forget, too, that Republicans are almost certain to push a filibuster against any assault-weapons ban, so it will take 60 votes for it to come to the floor for a vote.  If Franken isn’t enthusiastic about it now, the chances of it passing cloture are nil, and it probably won’t even get a majority when other Senate Democrats facing redder state tests in 2014 have to make their own decisions about signing up for gun control.

Update: Looks like Franken has had a change of heart after his vacillation yesterday, but not a complete one:

I’ve always supported the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans to own firearms for collection, protection, and sport. But I also think we need to find a balance between those rights and the safety of our children and our communities. I co-sponsored legislation to large clips like those used in so many mass shootings. I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that. We need to make sure we don’t have weapons out there that are really designed for the battlefield, and not for hunting. In the days and weeks ahead, I’m going to consult closely with all of the affected communities in the state – and that includes people like hunters, educators, parents, and other elected officials – about the best path forward.

Emphasis mine.  That’s not, one should note, a full-out endorsement of the Obama proposal, but it’s closer than what Franken gave in public yesterday.  And again, if the hard-Left Franken is treading this carefully in Minnesota, just imagine what the half-dozen red-state Democratic Senators who have to face voters in 2014 are thinking.