Blather, Rinse, Repeat

Obama perseverates again. Meanwhile, cops don’t think much of his antigun ideas.

By JAMES TARANTO

The guys at CBS News have a sense of humor. The Web headline on their story about President Obama’s antigun speech yesterday in Hartford, Conn., reads: “Obama on Gun Debate: ‘This Isn’t About Me.’ ” That reminded someone on Twitter of the same network’s headline from July 20, 2009: “Obama on Health Care: ‘This Isn’t About Me.’ ”

Try to imagine how soul-ravishingly tedious an Obama speech would be if it wereabout him. We dare you.

Obama’s speech, at once demagogic and pathetic, reminded us of Mayor Michael Nutter’s efforts to censor a different kind of magazine, which we noted last month. Like Nutter, Obama is seeking to restrain law-abiding individuals from exercising their constitutional rights in ways the liberal left disapproves. And like Nutter’s effort, Obama’s is unlikely to succeed.

Here’s an example of the president’s demagogy:

Ninety percent of Americans support universal background checks. Think about that. How often do 90% of Americans agree on anything? And yet, 90% agree on this–Republicans, Democrats, folks who own guns, folks who don’t own guns; 80% of Republicans, more than 80% of gun owners, more than 70% of NRA households. It is common sense.

And yet, there is only one thing that can stand in the way of change that just about everybody agrees on, and that’s politics in Washington. You would think that with those numbers Congress would rush to make this happen. That’s what you would think. If our democracy is working the way it’s supposed to, and 90% of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy you’d think this would not be a heavy lift.

And yet, some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote “no” on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.

At this point, the audience boos, and Obama leads them in a chant of “We want a vote!” So let’s see if we have this straight: 90% of the public agrees with Obama’s position, yet it can’t get a vote because opponents are playing politics? One or the other of these statements may be true, or both may be false, but they can’t both be true.

Now, this column strongly opposes all Obama’s gun-control proposals, but we’re with our colleague Kim Strassel in thinking Senate Republicans are foolish to try to prevent votes on them. Why not put red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich and Joe Manchin on the spot by making them vote on each and every antigun proposal? As Strassel notes, the GOP can always filibuster later, if there’s a danger of an actual bill going to the floor–or, if the Senate approves something, they can kill it in the House.

Obama uttered one of the worst lines in the history of presidential oratory yesterday: “This is about these families and families all across the country who are saying let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down.”

“Let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down”? What a bizarre thing to imagine anyone saying. No doubt lots of parents, upon hearing of school shootings, react with fright at the thought that the victims could have been anyone’s children, including their own. Surely for most rational adults that feeling quickly passes, given that the odds of such a thing happening are minuscule. But who would say, with that creepy detachment, “Let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down”? Only an exceedingly cynical politician.

Still, let’s put aside the ghoulish tone of that remark and give the substance its due. We suspect that for Obama and most of his supporters, the burdens his proposals would impose on law-abiding citizens are an argument for, not against, them. But of course they make their case by pointing to the alleged benefits: that the proposals would “make it a little harder” for would-be violent criminals.

Columnist Kim Strassel on the gun control legislation that is likely to emerge from the Senate this week. Photo: Getty Images

Would they? We doubt it, but one can only speculate. But PoliceOne.com has some speculation from a source some would regard as especially authoritative: police officers: “More than 15,000 verified law enforcement professionals took part in the survey, which aimed to bring together the thoughts and opinions of the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility.”

Among the findings:

• Asked if a federal ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds would reduce violent crime, only 2.7% said yes, to 95.7% no.

• Only 7.6% thought a ban on so-called assault weapons would reduce violent crime; 71% thought it wouldn’t help, and 20.5% thought it would aggravate the problem.

• On the more general question of what effect the White House’s suite of gun restrictions would have on the safety of police officers, only 11.6% said it would help; 60.6% thought it would have no effect, and 24.6% thought it would make cops less safe.

• Asked what the likely outcome would have been at Aurora and Newtown had a legally armed civilian been on the scene, 80% said it would have meant fewer casualties and 6.2% said it would have prevented casualties altogether. Only 5.5% said it would have led to greater loss of life.

• Asked which measure would help most in preventing large-scale public shootings, a plurality (28.8%) said more-permissive concealed-carry policies for civilians. The second and third choices were also not on the Obama agenda: more-aggressive institutionalization of the mentally ill (19.6%) and more armed guards (15.8%). Only then do we get improved background screening for gun purchasers, (14%), followed by longer prison terms for gun-related violent crimes (7.9%). Bringing up the rear were tighter limits on weapons sales (1.5%) and legislative restrictions on “assault weapons” and magazines (0.9%).

The cops in the survey did lean toward supporting two measures: 58.8% said they thought harsher punishment for gun trafficking (including the use of “straw purchasers”) would reduce gun crime, and 56.7% thought lawful gun purchasers should be required to complete a safety course before buying at least some weapons.

“I don’t believe people should be able to own guns,” Obama’s onetime University of Chicago colleague John Lott quotes him as having said during the 1990s. During his speech yesterday Obama paid lip service to the Second Amendment, but the Lott quote, whose authenticity we are inclined to trust, sounds believable. Given Obama’s social and political milieu, it would be astonishing if he really did believe in the right to keep and bear arms.

At any rate, while we don’t always trust the police, we’re inclined to give their views more weight on this subject than those of a leftist politician, even one who managed to make it to the White House.

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