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Sam Stein

The Huffington Post • stein@huffingtonpost.com

 
Sam Stein

BIO

Obama Wades Into Gun Control Debate, Two Months After Tucson, Arizona Shooting

March 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Two months after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others in Tucson, Arizona, President Barack Obama finally waded substantively into the debate over gun-control policy.

In an op-ed so under-the-radar that several gun-control activists said they hadn't been aware of its publication, the president penned a thousand-word piece for the Arizona Daily Star on the need for sensible reforms in second-amendment law.

“I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country,” Obama wrote. “However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.”

As for practical policy suggestions, Obama had a few: enforce laws already on the books, including proper implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; push for greater state-to-state coordination; and “make the system faster and nimbler” so that those conducting background checks have the best available data. The president also left open the door for more reforms in the future, saying that this moment should only be the “beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.”

It was, in short, a first bite at some low-hanging fruit -- not mentioned in the piece are high-capacity magazines, which allowed the Tucson shooter, Jared Laughner, to get off 30-plus shots without reloading. It also seemed to be a set of policy proposals that the White House didn’t feel all that compelled to promote. Immediately following Tucson, aides to the president had suggested he would be making a high-profile speech on gun policy -- an address that never materialized.

Nevertheless, those in the gun-control activist community were pleased, having waited for Obama to finally put his imprint on the debate.

“Actually, I like this,” emailed Jim Kessler, a former director of policy and research at Americans for Gun Safety. “There will be a knee-jerk reaction among some who will say, “Why no clip ban?” But I think on both substance and political grounds, a high-capacity clip ban is the wrong way to go. There were roughly 12,000 gun homicides last year, and I’ll wager that less than 10 were caused by bullets 11 through 30 in someone’s magazine. The problem is bullets 1, 2, and 3 –- not 11, 12, and 13."

“The Obama focus seems to be on shoring up a background system that is the lynchpin of the nation’s gun laws,” Kessler added. “A better system that more accurately and quickly weeds out ineligible buyers may not be sexy, but it reduces crime. And there seems to be some indication that the president is seeking to expand background checks to some other sales that have been previously exempt –- perhaps gun shows. That’s a heavy lift in Congress, but that’s the right direction.”

An email seeking reaction from the National Rifle Association was not immediately returned.

Sam Stein

BIO

Obama Wades Into Gun Control Debate, Two Months After Tucson, Arizona Shooting

March 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Two months after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others in Tucson, Arizona, President Barack Obama finally waded substantively into the debate over gun-control policy.

In an op-ed so under-the-radar that several gun-control activists said they hadn't been aware of its publication, the president penned a thousand-word piece for the Arizona Daily Star on the need for sensible reforms in second-amendment law.

“I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country,” Obama wrote. “However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.”

As for practical policy suggestions, Obama had a few: enforce laws already on the books, including proper implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; push for greater state-to-state coordination; and “make the system faster and nimbler” so that those conducting background checks have the best available data. The president also left open the door for more reforms in the future, saying that this moment should only be the “beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.”

It was, in short, a first bite at some low-hanging fruit -- not mentioned in the piece are high-capacity magazines, which allowed the Tucson shooter, Jared Laughner, to get off 30-plus shots without reloading. It also seemed to be a set of policy proposals that the White House didn’t feel all that compelled to promote. Immediately following Tucson, aides to the president had suggested he would be making a high-profile speech on gun policy -- an address that never materialized.

Nevertheless, those in the gun-control activist community were pleased, having waited for Obama to finally put his imprint on the debate.

“Actually, I like this,” emailed Jim Kessler, a former director of policy and research at Americans for Gun Safety. “There will be a knee-jerk reaction among some who will say, “Why no clip ban?” But I think on both substance and political grounds, a high-capacity clip ban is the wrong way to go. There were roughly 12,000 gun homicides last year, and I’ll wager that less than 10 were caused by bullets 11 through 30 in someone’s magazine. The problem is bullets 1, 2, and 3 –- not 11, 12, and 13."

“The Obama focus seems to be on shoring up a background system that is the lynchpin of the nation’s gun laws,” Kessler added. “A better system that more accurately and quickly weeds out ineligible buyers may not be sexy, but it reduces crime. And there seems to be some indication that the president is seeking to expand background checks to some other sales that have been previously exempt –- perhaps gun shows. That’s a heavy lift in Congress, but that’s the right direction.”

An email seeking reaction from the National Rifle Association was not immediately returned.

Sam Stein

BIO

Chuck Schumer Endorses Funding Resolution To Avert Government Shutdown

March 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the point person for Senate Democrats in their negotiations over government funding resolutions, endorsed the latest stopgap fix during an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

The New York Democrat said he was comfortable with a three-week continuing resolution (that included $6 billion in cuts) to keep long-term negotiations going -- all but ensuring that the government won’t shut down on March 18 when funds would have run out.

“Yes,” Schumer said, when asked if he could back the short-term resolution, “and it gives me some cause for optimism that we can finish this [continuing resolution], the remaining six months, pretty well. There were negotiations between the president, Senate Democrats, House Republicans, and the proposal that was made, I’m for it. It takes cuts that Democrats have proposed, cuts that get rid of fat but don’t hit into the muscle the way HR 1 did, and it leaves out all these extraneous riders on things like abortion, global warming, other things that would make it far more difficult to get to a budget decision.”

Schumer’s optimism over finding an agreement on a six-month measure was, perhaps, more noteworthy than his endorsement of the three-week CR itself. Democrats have moved, step by step, toward the Republican-preferred level of spending cuts. And for it, they’ve received little if any giveback.

Privately, of course, negotiations are proceeding not just over funding levels but over the policy riders in the continuing resolution. But publicly the two parties still seem apart. Indeed, moments later in his "Meet the Press" interview, Schumer demanded more give from the GOP-leadership, with a bit of sternness that hardly suggested satisfaction or confidence about the state of negotiations.

“The ball shifts to Speaker Boehner. We have put some cuts on the table, we are willing to put more,” said Schumer. “But they have not said a single place where they would move off HR1, and now it can’t pass. … He may have to make a coalition with some Democrats in the House.”

Sam Stein

BIO

Chuck Schumer Endorses Funding Resolution To Avert Government Shutdown

March 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the point person for Senate Democrats in their negotiations over government funding resolutions, endorsed the latest stopgap fix during an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

The New York Democrat said he was comfortable with a three-week continuing resolution (that included $6 billion in cuts) to keep long-term negotiations going -- all but ensuring that the government won’t shut down on March 18 when funds would have run out.

“Yes,” Schumer said, when asked if he could back the short-term resolution, “and it gives me some cause for optimism that we can finish this [continuing resolution], the remaining six months, pretty well. There were negotiations between the president, Senate Democrats, House Republicans, and the proposal that was made, I’m for it. It takes cuts that Democrats have proposed, cuts that get rid of fat but don’t hit into the muscle the way HR 1 did, and it leaves out all these extraneous riders on things like abortion, global warming, other things that would make it far more difficult to get to a budget decision.”

Schumer’s optimism over finding an agreement on a six-month measure was, perhaps, more noteworthy than his endorsement of the three-week CR itself. Democrats have moved, step by step, toward the Republican-preferred level of spending cuts. And for it, they’ve received little if any giveback.

Privately, of course, negotiations are proceeding not just over funding levels but over the policy riders in the continuing resolution. But publicly the two parties still seem apart. Indeed, moments later in his "Meet the Press" interview, Schumer demanded more give from the GOP-leadership, with a bit of sternness that hardly suggested satisfaction or confidence about the state of negotiations.

“The ball shifts to Speaker Boehner. We have put some cuts on the table, we are willing to put more,” said Schumer. “But they have not said a single place where they would move off HR1, and now it can’t pass. … He may have to make a coalition with some Democrats in the House.”

03.14.2011 > < 03.11.2011