(AP) — Barack Obama once said it was a “scandal” that then-President George W. Bush did not force renewal of a federal assault weapons ban. Now it is Obama himself who is steering clear of that and other politically sensitive gun-control measures, even while calling for a new discussion on weapons and “how we can keep America safe for all our people.” The president asked for the new conversation on gun safety in an opinion column in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ hometown paper, the Arizona Daily Star, over the weekend. He proposed strengthening and enforcing existing laws requiring gun sellers to perform background checks.
Giffords and 12 other people were wounded and another six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed Jan. 8 at a voter event held by Giffords outside a Tucson grocery store. But to the disappointment of gun-control advocates, the president did not mention the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 — when Congress failed to renew it — even though it barred sales of high-capacity magazines like the one used by Giffords’ alleged shooter, and even though Obama was once an outspoken supporter of the ban. Nor did the president take the opportunity to endorse legislation backed by many Democrats on Capitol Hill after Giffords’ shooting that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines but not assault weapons themselves. That bill could be more politically palatable in Congress.