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Colorado shooting: Why calling Obama 'anti-gun' is smart politics

The gun lobby's bid to preempt new gun-control measures appears to be working. Even in the wake of Colorado massacre, Obama – dubbed by the NRA 'the most anti-gun president in history' – is defending gun rights.

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“It’s not in his interest for more and more people, particularly undecided voters, to get nervous about the gun issue,” Mr. Feldman says.

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If the election is close, he says, particularly in key battleground states such as Ohio and Virginia, where gun rights are important, heightened concern about what Obama might do about guns during a second term could decide the outcome. In addition to the mass shooting July 20 in Aurora, Colo., which killed 12 moviegoers, Feldman cites three other areas that work against Obama in November among gun owners:

  • Fast and Furious. The NRA has alleged that the Obama administration intentionally allowed firearms to flow into Mexico as part of a gun-walking program in order to create more mayhem on the US border – and thus build support for an anti-gun agenda. When Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt last month for refusing to hand over documents about the operation, the NRA counted lawmakers' votes in its scorecard.
  • The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. The draft treaty seeks control over international trade in conventional  weapons. Aimed at impeding terrorists, the proposed treaty has alarmed gun owners and conservatives in general, leery that the treaty will impede US citizens’ right to own firearms. The July 27 deadline for UN approval puts Obama in a tough position. The Obama administration says it will not allow the treaty to restrict Americans’ individual gun rights, and the NRA has put the administration on notice that there must be no compromise on the issue.
  • Nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Both of Obama’s picks serve as reminders to gun-rights advocates that the high court is the ultimate arbiter on the constitutionality of gun restrictions. Justice Sotomayor joined the dissent in the court’s 2010 landmark ruling McDonald v. Chicago, which overturned a ban on possession of handguns. Justice Kagan has yet to rule in a gun case, but gun supporters believe she would not defend their interests. The next president is expected to nominate at least one new justice.

In the end, Obama can’t win. Dan Gross, the head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, expresses frustration with the president’s “lack of leadership” on the issue. But it’s the vast gun lobby that has the political clout. And so Obama is expected to toe the line on gun rights all the way to Election Day.

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