It's dangerous territory for a U.S. politician, gun control. But President Obama may be discovering that treading into turbulent terrain is working for him. Mitt Romney needs some pantalones.
Following the bloody massacre in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater, where a lone gunman armed with an assault rifle, shotgun and two semi- automatic pistols opened fire on an audience, killing 12 and wounding 59, it seems natural to consider stiffening our nation's gun control laws.
James Holmes, the 24-year-old neuroscience graduate student arrested in connection with the shootings, acquired all of the weapons -- an AR- 15, two Glock 9mm handguns and a shotgun -- legally. He amassed an arsenal of 60,000 bullets over the Internet.
But taking on the national gun lobby is almost certain political suicide.
So, as logical as it seems for our leaders to recognize that current laws didn't stop Holmes from stockpiling a frighteningly large weapons cache, most won't.
When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed an assault weapons ban. At the 2002 bill- signing ceremony, he called AR-15s like the one used in Aurora, "instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people."
Now, though, he says he opposes an assault weapon ban for the rest of the country. (Sounds a lot like his argument that Romneycare was right for Massachusetts, but wrong for the rest of us. ... Say what?!)
"I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws," he told NBC's Brian Williams. "A lot of what this ... young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening."
Well, yes, shooting people in a crowded theater is wrong. Thank you, governor. But do you think measures to keep weapons out of the hands of people who would do such a thing might help? Apparently not.
"We can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential to improve the lots of the American people," he said.
Come on, Mitt! Everybody's tired of the duck and dodge. Ponte los pantalones! Take a position and stick with it already.
Your own buddy Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin said as much, just before the Romney- Williams sit down.
"I think there's a lot of caution. I think the mistake that they've made is the feeling like it can just be a referendum on the president," Walker said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "People don't just vote somebody out -- they've got to vote somebody in."
That's mild compared to the way media mogul Rupert Murdoch put it in some scorching Twitter rants:
"When is Romney going to look like a challenger?" Murdoch wrote in one. "Seems to play everything safe, make no news except burn off Hispanics."
Obama may be the one listening, however. He waded into the treacherous gun control waters during a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans Wednesday.
He said the Second Amendment's protection of gun rights, and hunting and shooting, are part of a "cherished national tradition."
But, he continued, "I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that an AK-47 belongs in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."
It's more than just isolated incidents like the one in Aurora, the president said. Those may get the attention, however brief, of the media, the pundits and the public, but gun violence, he said, is a national tragedy.
"For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, here in New Orleans," he said. "For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland."
And he may have been throwing down a gauntlet for Congress by acknowledging how quickly the calls for action in the aftermath of an Aurora-like incident fade away.
"Too often those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere," he said.
The reality is that gun advocates may say "Guns don¿t kill people," but they do.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "The U.S. homicide rate is 6.9 times higher than the rate in 22 other high-income populous nations combined, despite similar rates of non-lethal crime and violence rates. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. was 19.5 times higher."
The campaign's list of mass shootings just since 2005 includes more than 400 incidents. It's 62 pages long. And - - get this! -- the folks at Brady say that's not a complete listing! It's just the ones they found in news reports.
The president's critics are bound to say he's just playing politics with his gun control comments. They said it about his stand on same-sex marriage. And after he halted the deportations of young undocumented immigrants. They may even be right. But, politics or not, Obama's poll numbers are going up. He may have struck a chord with voters. Speaking out about topics most politicians are afraid of seems to be working for him. Romney could take a page from the president's playbook ¿ even his supporters are tiring of "Play It Safe Mitt."
And if some reasonable gun control measures to stop our nation's kids from dying come out of it, that's not a bad thing.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison