Surveying Dem & GOP Presidential candidates, Brady bunch President declares "we got the ball back"

We're All Gun Nuts Now

By John McCormack

During a campaign debate on April 16, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were asked if the District of Columbia's ban on gun possession, now facing a challenge before the Supreme Court, is constitutional. "I think a total ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances, might be found by the Court not to be. But I don't know the facts," said Clinton (Yale Law '73), dodging the question for the third and final time. Obama (Harvard Law '91) also pleaded ignorance, confessing he hadn't "listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence."

When moderator Charlie Gibson pointed out that Obama's handwriting was on a 1996 candidate survey that said he favored banning handguns, Obama flatly denied his writing was on the questionnaire, contradicting what a campaign staffer had told Politico weeks earlier. Asked if he still supports licensing and registering guns, Obama said he favors "common-sense approaches" to gun control like keeping guns from "the mentally deranged." When Clinton was asked if she maintains her past support for licensing and registration, she too sidestepped the question, saying, "What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana."

With both contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination evading the gun control issue as if it were sniper fire, you couldn't blame gun control advocates for feeling bitter. Yet Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence--the pro-gun control counterweight to the National Rifle Association--says Obama and Clinton are "coming fairly close to delivering the message we'd like."

On licensing and registering guns, Helmke says, they are "being realistic" in recognizing "there's no support for pushing that forward at this stage." His thoughts on the candidates' ducking questions on the D.C. gun ban? "They're politicians, and most politicians on tough calls do not answer."

...Like Obama and Clinton, [Republican presidential nominee John] McCain favors closing the "gun show loophole," which allows private individuals, unlike licensed gun dealers, to sell their guns without performing background checks. This has a decent chance of becoming law in the next couple of years.

...Helmke describes the Brady Campaign's present situation with a football analogy. "The other side had marched the ball down on the 2 yard line  .  .  .  but now we got the ball back. The bad news is we've got 98 yards to go," he says. "You don't throw the Hail Mary pass.  .  .  .  You've got three downs to get a first down."

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