WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, briefing reporters for the first time since the Tucson shootings, was noncommittal when asked about the two pieces of gun-control legislation proposed by lawmakers in the wake of the shootings.
Instead, he reaffirmed the president's support for the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, and pledged to give any piece of legislation -- whether it be a ban on high-capacity clips, or restrictions on how close a firearm can be carried to a lawmaker -- proper review.
"Obviously we are and have been focused on the important healing process. We will have an opportunity to evaluate ideas and proposals that may be brought forth as a result of the circumstances and the facts in this case," Gibbs said. "The president, again, since I have been with him in 2004, supports the assault weapons ban and we continue to do so. And I think we all strive regardless of party to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reduce violence. We will have an opportunity to evaluate some of the other proposals."
Later, Gibbs offered a similarly noncommittal response to questions about whether Obama would support efforts to help people cope with mental illness, saying only that the White House would look at the proposals in time.
The administration doesn't like to show its legislative hand without doing its homework first. That said, the Second Amendment has been the third-rail for this White House. Obama himself seems likely to harbor concerns about the accessibility of guns. But he has long since moved away from a place where he would express so publicly.
As Don Kates, a retired American professor of constitutional and criminal law told The Huffington Post on Wednesday:
Democrats are scared shitless about the issue of gun control and you will notice that although as a legislator, in Illinois, Barack Obama called for the banning of handguns now he says he is all in favor of the second amendment.
Bill Clinton produced a situation where he strong armed various legislators into voting for these laws and most of them then lost their jobs. They remembered that. And if Obama were foolish enough to make gun control a major plank and try to twist people's arms to vote for gun bans, which he has shown no inclination to do, there would be a whole lot of people saying, 'Yeah, Bill did the same thing 20 years ago and both House and Senate turned Republican.