Democrats in power sur­pris­ingly hand vic­to­ries to NRA

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Obama and his al­lies in Congress have given the gun lobby a string of vic­to­ries — from for­go­ing new gun laws to eas­ing re­stric­tions al­ready on the books — since Mr. Obama took of­fice and Democrats as­sumed com­plete com­mand of po­lit­i­cal power in Wash­ing­ton.

Demo­cratic leaders in Congress tend to sup­port more re­stric­tive gun laws but have yielded on the is­sue since a ma­jor­ity of their rank-and-file mem­bers in­creas­ingly side with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA) when votes in­volve the Sec­ond Amend­ment right to keep and bear arms.

Gun-con­trol groups blame the Obama White House for the set­backs, say­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion kept mum on firearms is­sues even when shoot­ing in­ci­dents killed six at a North Carolina nurs­ing home in March and left 13 dead at an up­state New York im­mi­gra­tion cen­ter in April.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed that they didn’t use some lead­er­ship af­ter the shoot­ings in March and April to at least talk about the need to deal with this,” said Paul Helmke, pres­i­dent of the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence.

“They just don’t want to talk about it right now,” he said.

The NRA gained a ma­jor victory when Mr. Obama backed off from a push to re­in­state a ban on as­sault weapons, even as top Democrats and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, en­dorsed the ban.

On May 22, Mr. Obama signed a bill with a pro­vi­sion lift­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion on bring­ing loaded firearms into na­tional parks and wildlife refuges.

Mr. Obama and Demo­cratic leaders in Congress were forced to ac­cept the gun amend­ment, which was spon­sored by Sen. Tom Coburn, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can, to a bill that added pro­tec­tions to con­sumers in credit card con­tracts.

The ease with which the bill sailed through the Democra­tled Congress to the ready pen of Mr. Obama gave a rude awak­en­ing to gun-con­trol ac­tivists as the gun lobby se­cured a win that eluded it when Repub­li­cans ruled Wash­ing­ton.

Mr. Obama in April sought to ap­pease gun-con­trol ad­vo­cates by call­ing for the Se­nate to rat­ify the In­ter-Amer­i­can Con­ven­tion on small-arms traf­fick­ing, a mea­sure meant to stem the cross­bor­der flow of black-mar­ket guns and am­mu­ni­tion.

But the treaty, which has lan- guished in the Se­nate since 1997, re­ceived a cool re­cep­tion from Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid.

“We must work with Mex­ico to cur­tail the vi­o­lence and drug traf­fick­ing on Amer­ica’s south­ern bor­der, and must pro­tect Amer­i­cans’ Sec­ond Amend­ment rights,” said Mr. Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat. “I look for­ward to work­ing with the pres­i­dent to en­sure we do both in a re­spon­si­ble way.”

Mr. Reid, whose pop­u­lar­ity at home is ten­u­ous, faces a tough re­elec­tion race next year in his pro­gun West­ern state.

The NRA’s prow­ess at bend­ing the will of law­mak­ers also was on dis­play when a bill that would give the District a vot­ing mem­ber in Congress stalled be­cause House Demo­cratic leaders could not thwart an amend­ment that would re­peal most of the District’s strict gun laws.

The leg­is­la­tion has been shelved in the House since early March.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Mary­land Demo­crat, ac­knowl­edged that a ma­jor­ity of law­mak­ers in both cham­bers agree with NRA po­si­tions, but he in­sisted that those mem­bers of Congress do not “feel ob­li­gated to the NRA.”

“I don’t think [gun lob­by­ists] have got­ten what they want, any time they want it,” he told re­porters at the Capi­tol two weeks ago. He said the re­cent NRA vic­to­ries were all on the edges of the gun-law de­bate.

At­tach­ing pro-gun amend­ments to bills un­re­lated to firearms laws, Mr. Hoyer said, is a strat­egy with sig­nif­i­cant lim­i­ta­tions, es­pe­cially un­der House rules that re­quire an amend­ment to be ger­mane to the un­der­ly­ing bill.

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