Self-assured Obama will leave it on the field for gun control

“As I look back on this year, the one thing I see is that so much of our steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways,” Obama said. The Gallup Poll, based on surveys conducted Dec. 7-13, showed his public approval rating at 45 percent, up two percentage points from a year earlier.

Gun control is first on the agenda for the coming year. Wading into the issue at the start of primary voting in the presidential campaign is sure to provoke vehement political and legal challenges, similar to his attempt last year to end the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. That action remains mired in a court battle.

No major gun-control measure has emerged from Washington since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired ten years later and was not renewed. Obama’s unsuccessful attempt to win congressional passage of new gun-control laws after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, sapped political capital at the beginning of his second term.

The White House doesn’t plan a repeat of that fight. By choosing to move forward only with executive actions, Obama avoids being tied down in another protracted congressional battle he would likely lose. Democrats since former President Bill Clinton have tried without success to pass legislation expanding background checks by closing what critics call the gun-show loophole.