Ticket Replay: Why is Obama so afraid of the NRA?
During the holiday season, as in years past, The Ticket is republishing some of our favorite items from the previous political year. This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2010:
For 94 years, firearms have been banned in national parks. On Monday, with Congress running from the lobbying power of the National Rifle Assn., the ban was lifted. Guns are now also welcome to board Amtrak trains.
The National Parks Conservation Assn. fought the gun rule in court and blamed President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress for buckling under the pressure. "It comes down to whether or not they are willing to keep parks safe for the American people or kowtow to special interests like the gun groups," said the group's Bryan Faehner.
Maybe they thought that Obama -- given his Ivy League credentials and progressive mien -- would be the president who finally took on the NRA. Or maybe they believed his campaign rhetoric, when the candidate for change came out in favor of closing the loophole on gun show sales and making the federal ban on assault weapons permanent. Plus there was that infamous comment at a private fundraiser in San Francisco -- caught on YouTube of course -- when Obama speculated that some Americans are so bitter they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."
But these days, mindful of the need to corral Red State votes for issues like healthcare reform and financial regulation, Obama has swallowed whatever personal views he may hold on the issue in favor of political expediency. Those amendments on guns at the national parks and on Amtrak came as amendments to bills cracking down on credit card companies and funding transportation agencies.
Now comes word, via the New York Times, that states and local governments, responding to fear from gun owners that Obama would disarm them -- a fear that boosted gun sales after his election -- are considering an arsenal of bills (sorry, couldn't resist) to loosen gun laws.
In Virginia, lawmakers approved a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and repealed a 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month. This is in a state when Seung-Hui Cho gunned down 32 innocents in the campus massacre at Virginia Tech three years ago.
Gun control advocates are angry. "It’s been a very disappointing year for us, especially considering what he campaigned on,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which gave Obama a grade of F for his first year in office.
But those gun-touting 2nd Amendment types are delirious, counting Obama's election an unexpected win for their side. "Obama, with help from his fellow Dems throughout the country, has done more for firearm owners than any president in recent history, including vocally pro-gun Republicans," wrote outdoor writer Wild Bill Schneider. "And firearms manufacturers? Wow! While the rest of our economy tanked, they thrived, possibly having their best year ever in 2009."
Ah, that must be it, a secret plan to help the economy.
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama place presidential coins at the Fallen Soldier Memorial at Ft. Hood on Nov. 10, 2009, during a ceremony honoring the 13 people killed in a shooting rampage at the Texas military base. Credit: Getty Images