President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney did not have one meaningful exchange about gun control during their three debates. An audience member tried to get the candidates to discuss the issue at a Town Hall debate in October.
"What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?" Nina Gonzalez asked Obama.
Unable to cite any specifics, Obama quickly changed the topic to the culture of violence that spawns potential killers. But not before assuring gun owners that nobody was going to take away their weapons.
"We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We've got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves," said Obama.
It was a typical election-time response from a politician needing votes from rural Americans. More telling is Obama's record: during his first term, Obama proposed no specific legislation to get combat weapons off the streets.
Two days after one of the worst spasms of violence in U.S. history, Obama had no choice but to take the issue head on.
He was speaking at a vigil for the victims of Adam Lanza, a loner who used a semi-automatic assault rifle to slaughter 20 first graders and six adults.
Lanza, 20, was a troubled soul with an apparent history of mental problems. He also had access to a small arsenal of powerful weapons his mother legally purchased and stored in their Newtown mansion.
The killer fired more than one hundred bullets and died with hundreds of rounds of unspent ammo that would have taken many more lives had first responders not arrived.
Obama says he is determined to make sure it never happens again.
"In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said.
At least one fellow Democrat intends to hold him to his pledge. New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy has warned that she will "embarrass" Obama if he fails to act on the issue.
"I was just giving the White House a heads up that the gloves are off on my side and I was going to do everything I possibly could. … If that meant embarrassing everybody, that's what I would do," McCarthy told Politico.com.
Some have said that now is no time to politicize the gun debate, but McCarthy says that the time for talk has long since passed.
"I agree, this is not the time to talk about (gun control)," she said. "It should have been talked about years ago when we started having these mass shootings. It should have been done when (Congresswoman) Gabby Giffords was shot."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of the president, blasted Obama for offering no response to the spate of mass killings that plagued the U.S. before Friday's murder spree.
"The president campaigned in 2008 on an assault weapon ban, and the only gun legislation that the president has signed since then is the right to carry a gun in national parks where our kids play and to carry guns on Amtrak," Bloomberg said. "I assume that's to stop the rash of train robberies which stopped back in the 1800s."
Bloomberg insists the president has nothing to fear by taking on the National Rifle Association and its powerful gun lobby.
"The NRA's number one objective this time was to defeat Barack Obama for a second term," he said. "Last time I checked the election results, he won and he won comfortably. This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true."
Indeed, there were no prominent politicians from either party willing to take up the cause for the NRA this weekend.
"Meet The Press" invited 31 pro-gun Senate lawmakers to appear on its panel Sunday. Every one of them passed on the opportunity.
On that show, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) vowed to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons at the start of the next Congress.
"It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill," Feinstein said.
Feinstein believes Obama will support the ban. He went silent as president, but he supported similar legislation as senator in 2008.
Only a month before the Newtown massacre, a Gallup Poll showed only 43 percent of Americans supported an outright ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
Before a lunatic wiped out a room full of six and seven-year-old children, it would have taken considerable courage for Obama to risk the wrath of gun owners.
Obama will now have political cover.
by RTT Staff Writer
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