'National Discussion' on Guns Stymied by Media Ignorance

President Barack Obama wants tougher background checks and to lead "a national discussion" about gun control after the July 20 mass shootings in Colorado, but has not advocated reinstating the Clinton-era automatic weapons ban.

However, in a July 25 speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans, it sounded as if he was laying the foundation for doing just 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," he said.

Obama offered few specifics about what changes, if any, he might seek in the nation's gun laws, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the President has no plans to push for new gun legislation, and will instead insist that existing laws be better enforced.

Obama's reluctance to use the Aurora movie massacre as an opportunity to lobby for reinstating the automatic weapons ban -- a 2008 campaign promise he's never tried to fulfill -- has infuriated gun control zealots.

On June 23, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told CNN's Piers Morgan that police officers across the nation should "go on strike" to force Congress and state legislatures to impose tighter restrictions on law-abiding gun-owners.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) joined the fray by claiming her stymied bill, H.R. 308, the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, would have prevented the massacre because it would ban the sale or transfer of large-capacity clips used in Aurora.

"Common sense will say we can take prudent gun-safety legislation and try to save people's lives. That is the bottom line," she told Amy Goodman in a July 24 published on truthdig.com.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), who voted against a 2004 amendment to extend automatic weapons ban, said on July 24 that he remains opposed to the idea and that there is no groundswell to revive the ban or adopt McCarthy's bill.

"We have many areas of the country that have very strict gun-control laws and it seems not to have had any impact on the incidences that are in question," he said. "So I don't sense any movement among either Democrats or Republicans in the direction of thinking that stricter gun-control laws would likely have prevented this horrible occurrence in Colorado."

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor at who publishes the pro-Second Amendment blog, "The Volokh Conspiracy," told Robert VerBruggen in National Review Online on July 23 that the shooter had "normal guns" and that virtually no gun-control policy could have stopped this particular man from buying them.

Part of the problem in separating rhetoric from fact, VerBruggen writes, is that few mainstream media journalists and TV personalities have any understanding or experience with firearms.

That makes Obama's call to have "a national discussion" about gun control a difficult proposition, he writes.

"The underlying theme of so much Aurora coverage has been that we need to have an 'honest conversation about guns,'" VerBruggen writes. "Such a conversation would be easier to have if the media didn't provide so much bad information."