After months of campaigning with little to no discussion on gun control, sportsmen and gun owners were starting to wonder if the presidential candidates would ever be forced into a firearms debate. Then, all of a sudden during last night’s second presidential debate, there it was. Undecided voter Nina Gonzalez (for some reason the Brady Campaign keeps calling her Nina “Rodriguez”, but that’s another story) asked President Obama about what his administration “has done or plans to do to limit the availability of [so-called] assault weapons.” See the 1:15 mark of the video below:
The president’s response is telling.
“We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment,” he said. “We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.”
Okay. So far, so good.
“But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency, where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody,” the president continued, “Most recently out in Aurora.”
And here we go.
” … Weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets,” the president said. “And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re using cheap hand guns.”
The perfect retort for Mitt Romney at this point would’ve been, “You’re right, Mr. President, there’s an awful lot of violence in your hometown of Chicago. In fact it has one of the highest murder rates in the country, but you know what, it also some of America’s strictest gun control laws. Your hometown proves that banning guns doesn’t solve the larger social issues causing violence in our country.”
Unfortunately, although Romney said he would not seek a renewal of the “Assault Weapons” Ban, his answer was far from a homerun in the eyes of some gun owners.
“I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal,” the governor said. “We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.”
Romney cited better education opportunities and encouraging children to get married before having kids as ways to bring about social change. He then briefly addressed the Fast and Furious scandal.
“The greatest failure we’ve had with regards to gun violence in some respects is what is known as Fast and Furious. Which was a program under this administration, and how it worked exactly I think we don’t know precisely, where thousands of automatic, and AK-47 type weapons were — were given to people that ultimately gave them to — to drug lords … I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords,” he said.
Romney’s remarks were interrupted by President Obama, who interjected, “Candy?” in an attempt to get the attention of event moderator Candy Crowley of CNN. Crowley heeded the president’s request to stop Romney, apparently unaware of the connection between Fast and Furious and semi-automatic rifles.
“Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned,” Crowley said. “I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?”
Perfect. What a great opportunity for Romney to clarify his past position on gun control and explain why his views have evolved. Sadly it appears to the author that this softball question was squandered.
“Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation,” Romney said. “And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted. There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven’t previously been available and so forth, so it was a mutually agreed- upon piece of legislation. That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.”
So, self-proclaimed pro-gun folks in Massachusetts ignored the interests of semi-auto enthusiasts and instead compromised with anti-gun folks, which Romney cites as an example of the strong bipartisanship America needs. Are gun owners likely to buy that?
Overall, most pundits and political analysts are scoring the debate as a draw. It was a heated and, at times, rather awkward and impolite affair in which both participants argued over who was lying. Both men often spoke out of turn, went over their time limits, and asked for another opportunity to speak. Some found their debate tactics equally distasteful. As a Forbes magazine writer put it, “Romney v. Obama Was a Nauseating Draw, and Both Deserve to Lose.” Indeed, at times the town hall event felt more like a trashy daytime talk show than a contest to decide the next leader of the free world.
(Who won the second presidential debate? Take the SV Poll!)
Did undecided voters hear anything of substance? Fox News’ panel of “undecided” voters say they were swayed much more by Romney. That’s no surprise, given the network’s right-leaning coverage. However, left-leaning MSNBC’s “undecided” panel was also more impressed by Romney. It will be interesting to see if these reactions play out in the next round of nationwide polling.
As a sportsman, who do you think won the debate and why? And what did you think of the candidates’ exchange on gun control?