Obama refuses to get into gun debate

President Obama seems determined not to allow fights over gun control to become a larger theme in the presidential campaign’s storyline as it approaches the final 100-day stretch.

Obama has signaled no support for tougher gun-control legislation in the wake of the Friday shooting at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead and more than 50 wounded.


And the president, by all accounts, isn’t feeling pressure from supporters — including campaign donors — to move on the gun issue, either.

“I don’t think the event in Colorado changes the dynamics of the race,” said one former senior administration official. “While it’s hard to imagine it won’t be brought up — at the very least, in Colorado — I don’t think it plays out elsewhere.

“It certainly doesn’t trump the economic stuff,” the former official said. “It doesn’t even come close.”

Obama donors interviewed on Monday say gun control hasn’t become an issue in their circles. “I don’t expect to hear a peep out of it,” one top donor said, even in the face of some more liberal critics. 

Even as the president traveled to Colorado on Sunday to meet with victims of the shootings, the White House was signaling Obama’s position that gun laws shouldn’t change because of the killings.

The president has repeatedly stated that “existing laws” are enough to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them and has spoken of protecting the Second Amendment.

Both points were highlighted in an op-ed the president wrote in 2010 after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), and the White House has emphasized them in Colorado’s aftermath.

“The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that’s his focus right now,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Sunday. 

In the 2010 op-ed, Obama emphasized that existing laws should be able to keep guns away from the “irresponsible, law-breaking few.”

But he argued some laws have not been implemented well.

For example, he noted that after the Virginia Tech massacre, Congress approved legislation intended to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is supposed to make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands.

Incomplete and inadequate data from states hampers the national system, Obama wrote in the op-ed, preventing it from working properly. The families of the Virginia Tech victims have called on Congress to strengthen the system in recent days.

In the op-ed, Obama also emphasized that his administration had expanded gun rights by allowing people to carry their guns into national parks and wildlife refuges.

Mitt Romney’s campaign has been deferential in the aftermath of the Colorado shootings, giving no indication that the presumptive Republican nominee plans to enter the debate over gun control.

In an interview on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report” Monday, Romney said it’s too soon to discuss “the politics associated” with Friday’s incident. 

But Romney said he believes “the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and do[es]n’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy.

“There are — were, of course, very stringent laws which existed in Aurora, Colo.,” Romney said. “Our challenge is not the laws, our challenge is people who, obviously, are distracted from reality and do unthinkable, unimaginable, inexplicable things.”

Obama’s and Romney’s positioning hasn’t stopped some lawmakers — including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — from ramping up the pressure on the issue in recent days. In a string of interviews, Bloomberg (I) has urged both Obama and Romney to offer detailed policy proposals on the issue, not just “soothing words.” 

“People say it’s bad politics to address the issue,” Bloomberg said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “I think they’re wrong. I’m going to try to stir it up, and so is everybody else.

“You ask one of the families, is this the time to focus on how to keep their other child from getting killed? I think they’d be on the side of — do it now,” Bloomberg said.

Later, Bloomberg added, “I think there is a perception among the political world that the [National Rifle Association] has more power than the American people.

“I don’t believe that,” he said.

But Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and other lawmakers argue that even the toughest gun laws wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Friday’s massacre. 

“This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something. Right?” Hickenlooper said Sunday in an interview on CNN. “He’s going to know how to create a bomb. Who knows where his mind would have gone? Clearly, a very intelligent individual, however twisted. That’s the problem. This is a human issue in some profound way.”

Stephen Halbrook, a lawyer who has argued Supreme Court cases involving the Second Amendment and has written books about the issue, said “it’s hard to say” where the gun-

control matter ends up in the 2012 presidential race.

But, Halbrook said, “People who really want to do evil can find a way to do it.

“You just can’t legislate a perfect world,” he said.