Obama and Hill Dems Frustrate Allies in Gun Debate

Todays second anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting massacre, the upcoming tenth anniversary of the infamous Columbine High School shootings, and President Barack Obamas trip to Mexico

Back when Barack Obama was a presidential candidate, he stood before nearly 40 million Americans and fired what many gun control advocates thought was a clear warning shot.

"Don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals," he exclaimed in his widely viewed acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention last August.

But President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have been less than full throated in their commitment to pursuing stricter gun regulation measures including a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban.

In fact, President Obama suggested today that he does not think reauthorizing the assault weapons ban is politically viable at this time. "None of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy," Mr. Obama said at a joint press conference with Mexican President Calderon in Mexico City.

President Obama also took pains to reassert his belief that the assault weapons ban "made sense" when it was in place and argued he wasn't "steering away from it," but clearly placed the focus of his guns agenda on stricter enforcement of the laws already on the books and a hope to build consensus in Congress on an effort to more widely share gun tracing information with local law enforcement agencies.

This week's second anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting massacre, the upcoming tenth anniversary of the infamous Columbine High School shootings, and President Obama's trip to Mexico this week -- where President Calderone is expected to once again push for the reauthorization of the U.S. assault weapons ban -- have all converged, placing the politically perilous issue of guns back in the spotlight.

In addition, a spate of shootings including the high profile tragedies in Pittsburgh and Binghamton, N.Y., have focused the nation's attention on gun violence.

But don't expect President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress to do much more than try to train that spotlight elsewhere. The relative silence you hear on the issue from the White House and Democratic leaders on the Hill is in stark contrast to 1993, when the party successfully passed and President Clinton signed into law the Brady gun bill, which instituted five-day waiting periods, and the 1994 federal assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.

The muted advocacy from the elected officials they consider allies in the political warfare over guns has been disheartening for gun control advocates.

"Our hope certainly was that once the White House got under the control of President Obama, they would be talking about the issue and taking some leadership on the issue," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's frustrating that there hasn't been a response from the White House," he added.

Helmke suggests the Obama team and congressional leaders are misreading the lessons of the 1994 midterm elections, when Democrats lost control of Congress just two years into Clinton's first term.

"My sense is that they are very cautious and they are saying to themselves 'We don't want to repeat whatever happened in 1993/1994 and lose control after two years,'" said Helmke.

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