Steve Chapman

Still, the NRA is not rushing to recant. A spokesman admits the president has signed some provisions it favors, but notes that they were attached to legislation he wanted, making them hard to veto. Says Andrew Arulanandam, "He has disappointed us with his appointments," particularly Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, neither a darling of the shooting set.

But those are petty matters given Obama's overall refusal to do anything to advance gun control. On this issue, he took such a strong, clear position during the campaign that he has no room to maneuver. That was not accidental. It was deliberate -- the equivalent of burning his ships to eliminate the option of retreat.

In terms of actual policy, rather than his previous record, Obama is a long way from being anti-gun. This is not because he has fond memories of sitting in a deer stand as a lad in Hawaii or of talking shotguns with Dick Cheney. It's because his mother didn't raise a fool.

Like some other Democrats, he may recall that in 1994, after banning "assault weapons," they lost the House for the first time in 40 years. Obama knows that anyone who staunchly favors banning guns won't vote Republican no matter what. But some independents who are protective of their weapons may vote Democratic if that issue is off the table.

Off the table is exactly where he intends to keep it. Last year, 65 House Democrats wrote Holder vowing to "actively oppose" any effort to restore the assault weapons ban. The president has enough trouble getting legislation that enjoys overwhelming support in his party. He is not about to pick a fight with centrist Democrats over gun control.

Opponents of gun control should not rely on Obama's innermost sentiments on the subject. He obviously doesn't cherish the right to keep and bear arms. But for those who favor Second Amendment rights, here's the nice thing about having such a canny politician in the White House: He doesn't have to.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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