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Obama assault on assault weapons worries Nancy Pelosi

February 27, 2009 |  6:52 am


Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco looked stricken when reporters asked at her weekly news conference if the Obama administration had conferred with her on a decision to reinstate a ban on assault weapons.

"No," she said, adding, "On that score, I think we need to enforce the laws we have right now. I think it's clear the Bush administration didn't do that."

In political terms, that's code for What the Heck was Eric Holder Thinking when the attorney general announced earlier this week that the administration would seek to make permanent the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration.

As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to re-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.

As soon as Holder issued the first salvo, the National Rifle Assn., a powerhouse lobbying group, laid down its own marker.

"We're going to fight the ban," said Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist. "President Obama spent tens of millions of dollars campaigning as a pro-2nd Amendment candidate. So maybe he thinks he has enough political capital to do this. But I'm sure there are some Democrats at the White House and Capitol Hill who are cringing right now."

Democrats from rural or conservative districts are among those cringing. Pelosi, with one eye on the need to keep a Democratic majority in the 2010 elections, was likely protecting those Blue Dog Democrats.

One Democrat who said she was "thrilled" at the news was Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), whose husband was killed and son paralyzed by a shooter who boarded a Long Island Railroad commuter train in 1993. As she told The Hill, she understands Pelosi's concerns, but "I'm hoping President Obama can convince her otherwise."

-- Johanna Neuman

Correction: an earlier version of this post included a photo of assault weapons in Iraq. Since this post is about assault weapons in the U.S., we have changed the photo accordingly.

Photo: California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in downtown Los Angeles with rifles and assault weapons bought legally but subsequently seized due to criminal offenses or mental health issues. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times