Friday, November 25, 2011

Publicly, Obama Silent On Gun Control Issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — They are fuzzy about some issues but the Republican presidential candidates leave little doubt about where they stand on gun rights.

Rick Perry and Rick Santorum go pheasant hunting and give interviews before heading out. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain speak to the National Rifle Association convention. Michele Bachmann tells People magazine she wants to teach her daughters how to shoot because women need to be able to protect themselves. Mitt Romney, after backing some gun control measures in Massachusetts, now presents himself as a strong Second Amendment supporter.

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, is virtually silent on the issue.

He has hardly addressed it since a couple months after the January assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., when he promised to develop new steps on gun safety in response. He still has failed to do so, even as Tucson survivors came to Capitol Hill last week to push for action to close loopholes in the background check system.

Democrats have learned the hard way that embracing gun control can be terrible politics, and the 2012 presidential election is shaping up to underscore just how delicate the issue can be. With the election likely to be decided largely by states where hunting is a popular pastime, like Missouri, Ohio or Pennsylvania, candidates of both parties want to win over gun owners, not alienate them.

For Republicans, that means emphasizing their pro-gun credentials. But for Obama and the Democrats, the approach is trickier.

Obama's history in support of strict gun control measures prior to becoming president makes it difficult for him to claim he's a Second Amendment champion, even though he signed a bill allowing people to take loaded guns into national parks. At the same time, he's apparently decided that his record backing gun safety is nothing to boast of, either, perhaps because of the power of the gun lobby and their opposition to anything smacking of gun control.

The result is that while Republicans are more than happy to talk up their support for gun rights, Obama may barely be heard from on the issue at all.

Read more on Gun Issue Represents Tough Politics for Obama.

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