In the wake of last week's massacre in Aurora, most leading Democratic officials, including the nation's top Democratic official, have said almost nothing about gun policy. The conspicuous silence helped reinforce what's been widely assumed: the fight over gun control is no longer a fight at all.
But for his party, President Obama broke his silence last night in New Orleans, speaking to the Urban League, making his first public comments on gun policy in quite a long while. MSNBC's "The Ed Show" aired the remarks live.
For those who can't watch clips online, these comments were of particular interest:
"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -- that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.
"But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals; that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."
I suspect the right will go on the attack over the remarks, but I'll also look forward to conservatives explaining why restricting firearm purchases by convicted criminals and the mentally unbalanced is outrageous.
For his part, Mitt Romney has weighed in on gun policy a bit, too.
A couple of days ago, Romney told CNBC, "There were, of course, very stringent [gun] laws which existed in Aurora, Colorado." That's not even close to being true.
Yesterday, Romney went further.
"Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them," Romney said.
For the record, the gunman in Aurora purchased his guns and ammunition legally.
I sometimes get the impression that Romney speaks on multiple subjects without any regard for reality.