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Post-Tucson, will Dick Cheney's quote give Obama cover for a State of the Union gun control measure?

January 21, 2011 |  5:42 am

Tucson shooting Memorial Crowd 1-13-11

The emotional aftermath of the recent Tucson shootings saw the usual calls for tighter restrictions on guns from the usual Democratic suspects.

It also saw a surge in sales of guns, possibly by people anticipating further limits.

California's Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer wants tighter restrictions on who can carry concealed weapons.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer says legislation controlling super-sized ammunition clips up to 33 cartridges could save lives by curtailing the length of rapid-firing. The Tucson shooter got off 19 rounds.

And New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband to a shooter on a commuter train in 1993, introduced legislation this week to limit ammo clips to....

...10 bullets, the previous limit in place under the federal assault weapon ban that expired in 2004. "It's a small sacrifice that law-abiding gun owners can make once again in order to increase everyone's safety," she said.

Of course, her party no longer controls the House of Representatives. Republicans have so far shown no inclination to change their usual stance against further controls. And recent polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Americans believes stricter laws would not prevent future Tucsons.

Have you noticed one voice in particular missing from the gun control debate the last two weeks? President Obama hasn't mentioned it publicly, not even in his well-received Tucson memorial remarks. FYI, after some therapy outdoors in Tucson on Thursday, wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords flies to Texas today to continue physical rehabilitation.a Glock 9mm

Questioned, press secretary Robert Gibbs repeated the Democrat's support for the assault weapons ban, which wasn't the question and which expired before Obama entered the U.S. Senate; he has not moved to reinstate it.

As our colleagues Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey wisely point out here, Democrats learned the toxicity of gun control talk during the losing 2000 election campaign when Al Gore's endorsement of tighter restrictions cost him votes, especially in rural areas. Can you say, couldn't even win his homestate of Tennessee?

In Obama's state Senate days he did oppose a bill that would have allowed homeowners to shoot intruders and he did maintain the District of Columbia gun law was constitutional.

But he seems to have learned a lesson about circumspection following his gaffe during the 2008 primary season at what Obama thought was a private fundraiser in a San Francisco mansion where he enlightened Bay area elites about those poor Midwestern sods.

Mayhill Fowler, a blogger, had a tape recorder that night and was soon quoting Obama on Huffington Post:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

You'll never guess who lost the Pennsylvania Democratic primary then to Hillary Clinton. With circumspection and the passage of seven long months, Obama ended up winning Pennsylvania that November.

But now November 2012 is closer than November 2008. Not only must Obama try to reconstruct his voting coalition for a second term, but 23 Democratic Senate seats are up that year too, many in normally red states. So no one was expecting any gun legislation before then.

But wait! Now comes former Vice President Dick Cheney, the least likely gun control advocate. He recently told NBC that, with caution, some reimposition of limits on ammo clips might be "appropriate."

Hmm, so might such a comment by a reliable conservative critic provide cover and embolden the Democrat to say something along those lines in Tuesday evening's State of the Union address? After all, those presidential speeches are important only at the time; very little of those lengthy laundry lists ever gets acted upon -- or remembered.

Quick, what did Obama say in last January's State of the Union about freezing defense spending this year?**

 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images (Tucson shooting memorial crowd, Jan. 13, 2011).

** He didn't. He said defense spending was excluded from the freeze.