I’m watching the White House press briefing right now, and I get the distinct feeling that Jay Carney — the President’s mouthpiece — is walking back the gun control rhetoric that the president has been spouting. He keeps talking about how gun control is “one of the pieces” and how the president is looking at improving existing laws and only possibly new laws. It really looks like Jay is laying the ground work for a drastically scaled back assault on the 2nd Amendment than we were expecting, and part of that may have to do with money . . .
On Sunday night, Speaker Boehner (Republican leader of the House) started giving ground on the fiscal cliff negotiations. There was talk of putting some of President Obama’s tax increases into the budget, something that we hadn’t quite seen yet in the negotiations. It was President Obama’s big talking point during the campaign, his tax on the wealthy to support some of the entitlements that Americans have come to expect, and something that I’m sure the Republicans wanted to keep out of the budget in order to “stick it” to the President for winning.
But they gave ground. They’re talking about including it, letting President Obama get his win on the budget and keep his campaign promise.
Following the events of Friday, a bunch of new polls went into the field to test the waters for increased gun control. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, when people were still reeling from what happened, increased gun control went from something supported by only 39% of respondents to 57%.
You’d think that would mean a green light for politicians to go ahead and make whatever laws they want, but a closer look at the polling numbers reveals only a very slim majority in favor of an assault weapons ban, 52%. High capacity magazine bans only got a 2 point bump to 59%
What the polls show is that while the public thinks something must be done, it looks like they favor stricter enforcement of existing laws rather than new ones. In fact, 57% of responses indicated that they preferred stricter enforcement while 40% wanted new laws.
These numbers were calculated during a period when the shock of the event was still greatest. People were still mad and didn’t have time to let their rational thoughts catch up. And yet, the numbers still reveal a country that values its access to firearms for self defense.
I get the feeling that the politicians are seeing the writing on the wall. These numbers will normalize, dropping back down closer to the pre-shooting levels in a couple months, and possibly further by the time their re-election rolls around.
But the thing that people will remember and keep watching is the budget and how it impacts their taxes. It looks to me like the Republicans are offering the Democrats a carrot, hoping to trade some political gains in the budget for staying away from the topic of gun control in legislation.
From what I can see, I would expect closure of the “gun show loophole” to be the most likely legislation to come out of this whole mess — an end to private sales of firearms. Possibly a high capacity magazine ban if Dianne Feinstein can rabble rouse enough votes. But from the rhetoric here on Tuesday morning, it looks like the big changes are off the table.
Or I could just be overly optimistic.
[Polling information from here, full breakdown coming]