After Jared Loughner’s January shooting rampage in Tucson, gun control advocates pleaded with the Obama White House for a strong public stand in favor of tougher gun control laws. At the time, Chris Matthews, among others, reported that a “special presidential address on gun control” would be coming “in the near future.” Since then, tumbleweeds. In early February the Onion captured the moment with the headline “Obama Delivers Whispered, Untelevised Speech on Gun Control.”
Today we finally heard from the president on the subject. It wasn’t quite the full Onion scenario, but it was pretty-low key, in the form of an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star that took about as mild a position as you’ll ever see from a Democratic president. Much of the op-ed was dedicated to respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. And Obama’s three key bullet points for action–enforcing existing laws; rewarding states that provide useful gun data; and making the background check system “faster and nimbler”–represent political tiptoeing. No mention of even modest reform proposals to come out of the Giffords shooting, like a limit on high-capacity gun clips. This is a president who chooses his battles selectively, and it appears that gun control won’t be one of them.
P.S. If and when Giffords is able to return to the public stage, however, it will be fascinating to see what new position she might take on gun control–and how it might affect the national conversation.