If re-elected, President Barack Obama will initiate “a broader conversation” about reducing gun violence. Part of that discussion, he said, will be “seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.”
Obama made that statement during Tuesday’s presidential debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, issuing his strongest statement yet about re-imposing the Clinton Era assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
Unlike the first debate two weeks earlier, which didn’t include discussion about gun control and Second Amendment rights, Tuesday’s second Obama-Romney go-around featured a spirited exchange regarding a prospective AWB renewal and a Romney gaffe that it is “already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.”
In response to Obama’s vow to reinstate the AWB, Romney reiterated his campaign pledge to focus on enforcing existing laws rather than impose new ones.
Obama used Romney’s remarks to portray him as a flip-flopper, noting as Massachusetts Governor in 2004, he signed a statewide automatic weapons ban.
“First of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it,” Obama said, claiming Romney only changed his position to garner the NRA’s endorsement.
Romney said he signed the bill to extend Massachusetts’ existing assault weapons ban, which borrowed language from the expiring federal AWB. Legislators feared the state law would be invalidated when the federal ban expired, so they passed a new one and Romney signed it.
Callum Borchers of the Boston Globe in a post-debate fact check said Obama’s flip-flop claim is weak.
Romney’s “apparent change in position is less stark when placed in context,” he writes. “Massachusetts’ leading gun rights group, the Gun Owners Action League, has called the state ban Romney signed a ‘victory for gun owners.'”
Romney uncorked the debate’s biggest blunder by saying, “We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.”
Brian Bennett of the LA Times confirmed the obvious in a post-debate fact check, writing that the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Hughes Amendment in 1986 “have all placed limits on how automatic guns can be bought and sold, but did not make it illegal to possess them entirely.”
Bennett details the elaborate process required to legally own a fully automatic weapon. “Purchasing one requires submitting fingerprints and photographs to the (ATF) going through an FBI criminal background check, and paying a $200 tax, among other requirements,” Bennett writes. “Only automatic weapons manufactured and registered with the federal government before 1986 can be bought, owned and sold.”
Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman writes that while Romney is clearly wrong, “one might shave a point in his favor since full automatic weapons aren’t legal for average shooters; one must go through several hoops and pay a special tax to own a machine gun.”
Workman was pleased that Romney confronted Obama over his use of executive privilege to block the release of information regarding his administration’s ‘Fast & Furious’ gunwalking debacle.
He called it “a bull’s eye” that Obama dodged when debate moderator Candy Crowley shifted attention to the Massachusetts automatic weapons ban.
“The subject was left hanging like dirty laundry,” Workman writes. “Romney was put into the position of having to explain the Massachusetts legislation rather than the president having to explain why he extended executive privilege to cover documents subpoenaed by Congressman Darrell Issa and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”
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