1:53 pm Oct. 17, 20126
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama made a prophet out of Mayor Michael Bloomberg by failing to talk meaningfully, or even particularly comprehensibly, about guns.
"President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals," asked Nina Gonzalez toward the end of last night's town hall-style debate at Hofstra. "What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"
Obama, who theoretically favors a federal assault-weapons ban, began by reaffirming his faith in the Second Amendment.
He said he shared Gonzalez's belief "that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets," and said, somewhat vaguely, that it would be good to "see if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced," something he also gestured at in a noncommital way after the Aurora shootings.
But the bulk of his response was about changing the culture, so as to reduce violence, generally speaking.
There was talk of "working with faith groups and law enforcement," "making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur," and the importance of a good education.
Romney's response was tortured in a slightly different way.
Romney signed an assault weapons ban into law in Massachusetts when he was governor, but he doesn't favor one on a national level, something he reiterated last night: "Yeah, I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on—on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have."
How would he do that?
Romney mentioned "good schools," two-parent homes, and, of course, Fast and Furious.
"Governor, governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned," pressed Crowley. "I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?"
"It's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted," said Romney. "There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven't previously been available and so forth."
Bloomberg has made gun control one of his central issues on the national stage, and co-founded and underwrites Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Bloomberg is in the habit of blaming "Washington" for things, in keeping with his preference for criticizing both parties equally rather than assessing blame on a case-by-case basis. Often those statements seem intended more to enhance Bloomberg's stature as an above-all-that nonpartisan than to affect change by pressuring one side or the other.
But on that score, last night, Obama and Romney seemed to prove him right, as Bloomberg was only too eager to note at a next-day press conference at City Hall.
"I think what we did get was a perfect example of obfuscation and very little honesty," Bloomberg said. "If you think about it, the president, as I remember, said he wants more conversation. Well, we've been saying this for quite a while now. We don't need more talk. We need some leadership. Governor Romney said he brought both sides of the debate together. Well, why isn't he trying to do that right now? ... Then they had all this gibberish talking about education, that education is the solution to stop the killing. My recollection is that if the Aurora theater shooter, he was a PhD candidate, OK? And Virginia Tech, the massacre was committed by a student at a first class university ... The solution is to prevent all people who shouldn't have guns from getting them."
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