Obama and Hill Dems Frustrate Allies in Gun Debate

Recent polls may help explain that caution. A CNN poll earlier this month found just 39 percent of Americans said gun laws should be made "more strict," down from 50 percent in 2007. Last fall, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found 46 percent of those politically crucial self-identified independents said they supported stricter gun control. Considering numbers like that, combined with the fact that four in ten Americans have a gun at home, you can begin to see why Obama and many leading Democrats are keeping the debate at arm's length.

Obama to Make Assault Weapon Ban Permanent?

The White House Web site states that President Obama wants to make the assault weapons ban permanent, and Democrats in Congress are not entirely giving up on the effort even if they are kicking that effort down the road a bit.

"I wouldn't bring it up now," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday night. "I'll pick the time and the place, no question about it."

It is the second half of that statement that helps prevent the National Rifle Association's political arm from declaring victory. "I think that there are still some who wish to push their gun control agenda," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "I think they are just lurking and waiting."

"Gun bans are non-starters with gun owners. The simple fact is that the only universe of people who will be affected by gun bans are law abiding people. Criminals are not going to miraculously follow that law," he added.

Gun control advocates certainly realize they have more supportive White House occupants now than they have had for the last eight years. Helmke of the Brady Campaign still points to candidate Obama's specific mention of assault weapons in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention as a beacon of hope for his group's work.

"The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals," Obama said in Denver last August.

So it is all the more disappointing for those advocates to hear the far more noncommittal rhetoric coming out of the White House this week.

When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked on Tuesday how Obama might respond to the Mexican request for action on reauthorizing the ban on assault weapons, his answer suggested that request is not likely at the top of the president's to-do list.

"The president believes that there -- through enforcement of the existing laws that we have that we can make a dent in -- a significant dent in any gun violence," said Gibbs. "There's a lot on our plate," he added.

As long as Obama and the Democrats in power see the issue as a political loser, the push for stricter gun control is unlikely to have much muscle behind it.

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