"As a long-time resident and elected official of Chicago, Barack Obama has seen the impact of fully automatic weapons in the hands of criminals," then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign stated. "Thus, Senator Obama supports making permanent the expired federal Assault Weapon Ban. These weapons, such as AK-47s, belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets. These are also not weapons that are used by hunters and sportsmen."
That ban expired in 2004, and Mexican President Calderon recently told Nightline that he thought "it was very good legislation. During that period, we didn’t suffer a lot, like we suffered in the four or five years" since it expired.
But the White House has indicated it is not willing to expend political capital on the issue. At a joint press conference with President Calderon, President Obama just now said that he has not backed "off at all from my belief that the assault weapons ban made sense…Having said that, none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy."
"What we’ve focused on how we can improve our enforcement under existing laws," Mr. Obama said.
Calderon said that he understands that "this is a politically delicate topic" in the US.
Asked what the administration can do to stem the tide of guns illegally going to the Mexico, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today said that "first and foremost, it is to enforce particularly the laws that we have on the books, especially those related to the trafficking of arms."
Gibbs added that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently spoke about the administration’s "commitment to far stronger inspections of items that are moving from north to south, as well as moving from south to north."
Is the president backing off his campaign promise to re-instate the ban?
"Well, the President’s position was known in the campaign: He supports it," Gibbs said. "The President is also, though, focused on making some — taking actions to stem the flow of guns moving south that go across the border, but making progress on something that we are likely to see progress on."
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller