Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has no qualms about stating his view of the obvious: Efforts to enact gun control legislation aren’t working.
So in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado massacre that has claimed 12 lives so far, the nation’s top gun control advocate is seeking to change the debate about gun control.
“We just need to re-frame this whole conversation away from being part of the political debate,” he said today. “We need to expect more of ourselves and more of our leaders. There’s a disconnect between the interests of the American people and what our politicians are doing.”
The Brady Campaign, named after Ronald Reagan assistant James Brady, wants to reboot the national conversation and part of that, it seems, means taking its name off the masthead. The group will launch a new website later tonight called wearebettterthanthis.org (it’s not live yet) that will play down its sponsorship by the Brady campaign.
The idea, he said, is rescue the debate from the poles on either side of the gun control issue. The new site will feature a petition demanding politicians start talking about gun violence and how to prevent it. “It begins at the top with the president and Mitt Romney offering more than sympathy,” Gross said.
A Pew Poll in March found the public fairly split on the issue. Forty-nine percent of respondents said it was more important to protect the right to own guns. Forty-five percent said it was more important to control ownership.
What people and politicians should offer, Gross said, isn’t necessarily the kind of legislation that has been enacted in the past. ABC asked whether the Brady Campaign still supports the assault weapons ban, for instance.
“I wouldn’t say that we do or don’t at this point. I would say what we need to do is consider all of the solutions,” he said, arguing that such solutions will only come with input from supporters of gun rights and gun control.
“There are solutions that most gun owners and most NRA members support,” he said. “And there are supporters of a national gun policy that support the second amendment. … We need to make sure we’re on the same page before we start pushing specific policy provisions.”
Gross didn’t mention these examples, but here are some points to support the notion that existing gun control legislation is going nowhere fast:
1. Joe Biden liked to brag when he was running for president in 2007 that he wrote the Assault Weapons Ban. The ban has friends in high places. Biden, after all, is vice president of the United States. But he just gave an 18-minute speech to a gathering in Florida of the National Association of Police Organizations. That’s a group that has endorsed the assault weapons ban in the past. But days after a massacre involving an assault weapon paired with a shotgun and handguns, when the author of the assault weapons ban spoke to a group that had been a chief supporter of the ban, it didn’t come up.
2. The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, opposes an assault weapons ban. He was one of five Democrats to vote against extending the 10-year measure back in 2004. The last time the senate voted on the assault weapons ban, it was in 2004, just before the ban lapsed. Fifty-two senators, a majority that included six Republicans, voted in favor of amending a different bill to extend the ban. But that other bill, for a variety of reasons, failed. The extension never got a vote in the GOP-controlled House. The assault weapons ban lapsed.
3. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who was the principle sponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban when it originally passed and has called for its reinstatement, said Sunday that now is not the right time to add gun control legislation to the public debate. “I think that they should give it a lot of consideration, I think this is a bad time to embrace such a new subject,” the California Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There has been no action because there is no outrage out there, people haven’t rallied forward.”
4. As Jake Tapper reported Sunday, even though he supported the assault weapons ban as a candidate, President Obama’s attitude now is that curbing gun violence should be done within the existing scheme of laws.
“The president’s views on this are, as he has stated and as he spelled out in the op-ed that was published in an Arizona newspaper, which is that he believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Air Force One as the president flew to Colorado to console victims of Friday’s massacre. Read more about that here.