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Jul 16, 2009

An unexpected consequence of Obama’s election may be a rush to reduce gun control.

By Alan Stoga

For years, the National Rifle Association’s mantra has been that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  While it may seem a bit over the top to substitute, “Congress kills people,” consider the following:
-In March, 65 House Democrats signed a letter to Attorney General Holder opposing reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons on the grounds that Americans need them for “competitive shooting, hunting and defending their homes.”
-In May, the Congress passed and President Obama signed a law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.
-A House committee recently approved a proposal that would allow residents of public housing projects to keep guns in their homes, regardless of local ordinances that defined public housing as no-gun zones.
-The Senate is currently considering legislation to allow residents of states that permit concealed weapons to carry them in other states that allow concealed weapons, regardless of whether they are eligible to own a gun outside their home state.

The irony of all this legislative activity is that it comes with Democrats—the party that is supposed to be anti-gun—in firm control of both houses of Congress and with a president who promised during the campaign to take quick action to ban assault weapons and ammunition. 
What’s wrong with this picture?
Part of the answer lies with the NRA’s stunning ability to scare politicians into action.  Twenty years ago, only 6 states permitted concealed weapons.  Today, after years of hard lobbying, 40 states have passed right-to-carry laws, including 20 that allow concealed guns in churches.
But a bigger part of what is going on seems to lie with an apparent shift in how Americans are thinking about guns and gun control.
In April, the Pew Research Center found for the first time that almost as many people said it was more important to protect the rights of gun owners than to control gun ownership. Just a year ago, the balance was more like 60/40 in favor of gun control.  
More to the point, there has been a dramatic surge in gun ownership.  During the first six months of this year, federal instant background checks, the most reliable indicator of gun sales, have increased 25% over the first half of 2008.
Maybe it’s the recession.  Maybe it’s a perception that crime is increasing.  Or maybe it’s the unintended consequence of electing a President who has become the perfect foil for the pro-gun crowd.  
A Rasmussen poll taken at the end of June reported that 57% of Americans believe gun sales are up because they expect Obama eventually to champion tighter gun control measures, despite what is actually happening in Washington.
Perhaps the solution is for the President to go out and buy a gun.  Then everyone else might calm down. 

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