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April 14, 2009

Newsweek Finally Concerned About Obama Campaign Promises

On guns. In this particular bit of advocacy, Michael Isikoff and Suzanne Smalley practically beg the administration to reinstate the assault weapons ban. After recounting the story of cop-killer Richard Poplawski, the reporters get to the meat:

In the past, national political leaders might have raised troubling questions about how such an unstable character could obtain easy access to high-powered weapons. They might have been even more motivated given that Poplawski's cop-killing spree was part of a near epidemic of mass homicides that have left 58 people dead over the past month. Or given that Mexico's insanely violent drug cartels are arming themselves with high-powered assault weapons purchased at U.S. gun stores and later smuggled south of the border. Yet many past champions of stricter gun-control measures are silent. These include top Obama White House officials who have squelched any talk within the administration about pushing further gun-control measures."It's weird," says Peter Hamm, the communications director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "When you see people like [Attorney General] Eric Holder or Hillary Clinton or [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel become muted on this issue, you feel like you want to call up a friend and say, 'What's up?' "

Running for president in last year's Democratic primaries, Barack Obama promised to restore a federal ban on certain semiautomatic assault guns—a position that's still on the White House Web site. The ban was originally passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1994 and lapsed five years ago. In recent years the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also lifted virtually all restrictions on imports of foreign-made assault weapons, permitting a flood of cheap Romanian, Bulgarian and other Eastern European AK-47s to enter the country, according to gun-control groups. "There's been an absolute deluge of these weapons," says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center.

But Obama and top White House aides have all but abandoned the issue.

In the first sentence, you can practically hear the thoughts of the reporters as they struggle to understand why the template that worked so well during the Clinton administration seems to be falling on deaf ears now. It's interesting to note how delicately the reporters dance around the issue of guns from Mexico, no longer using the thoroughly-debunked 90% statistic. They're still using the same language, though - anyone here ever heard of a 'low powered' assault weapon?

The barely disguised advocacy and confused tone continues throughout the story, until the reporters show their hands at the end of the last paragraph. They quote a woman who saw Poplawski's rampage, then add to it:

"Something is very, very wrong with the system," she says. That might sound like a sensible refrain. But you'll struggle to hear a leading Democrat repeat it these days.
She's right, you won't. And there's a very simple explanation - it was the price of winning back the House of Representatives. The reporters quote a 'Blue Dog' Democrat (after noting he has a "stockpile" of guns) who states the obvious: gun control cost Democrats control of Congress in 1994 and the presidency in 2000.

The recent mass shootings in the United States have been horrifying, and I find it sad but typical that reporter-advocates like Isikoff and Smalley are using human tragedy as data points in their ideological argument. In their zeal to wave the bloody shirt, these advocates never take the time to note that such tragedies are remarkably rare in a nation of 300 million that contains an estimated 200 million firearms, and 80-90 million gun owners. My state, Maine, has a large number of gun owners (40%) and a concealed carry law and our 2007 murder report is one page long, with only eight homicides committed by firearms. Isikoff and Smalley ignore the fact that gun control simply doesn't work as a deterrent against crime. In fact, you know what does deter crime? Guns. Turns out criminals don't like being shot at. Who knew?

I haven't always felt this way about the Second Amendment. In fact, one could call me a recent convert to the cause. A blog series I wrote about my experiences with a pistol safety class showed me that the most ferocious advocates of gun safety are those who own guns. It's too bad Isikoff and Smalley are too invested in their advocacy to note it.

Cross posted at the Greenroom.

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posted by Slublog at 11:25 AM

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