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early and often

Did Obama Dodge a Bullet on Gun Control?

obama and mccain and guns

Photo-illustration: Getty Images, iStockphoto


What were the candidates' reactions to yesterday's landmark decision on gun rights by the Supreme Court? John McCain supported it, and Barack Obama … kind of supported it. There's a paper trail suggesting Obama was for the D.C. ban, but yesterday he claimed to have "always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms" — while also seeing the need for "common-sense, effective safety measures" to protect "crime-ravaged communities." Some think he's taking a politically expedient stance to further his goal of winning every single state in the country this November, while others believe his support of yesterday's decision falls within his nuanced view of gun control. Many others, meanwhile, think the Supreme Court just made gun rights a non-issue this election season.

• George Will believes that "Obama benefits from this decision," because, while "he formerly supported groups promoting a collectivist interpretation" of the Second Amendment, "as a presidential candidate he has prudently endorsed the 'individual right' interpretation." Had the Court upheld the D.C. law, "emboldened gun-control enthusiasts would have thrust this issue … into the campaign, forcing Obama either to irritate his liberal base or alienate many socially conservative Democratic men." [NYP]

• Mike Madden thinks "the Court's decision may have shoved the gun control issue further aside — and helped inoculate Obama from it." Now that the Court has settled the collective-versus-individual-right debate, "Republican and Democratic strategists alike say it may be harder than ever for conservatives to whip voters into a frenzy on gun ownership come November." [Salon]

• Andrew Romano isn't sure Obama "will actually lose this round with voters — or that McCain will win." The decision allows Obama to "reaffirm his broader beliefs" — an individual right that can still be constrained — "which have, in fact, been consistent all along." McCain will only be able to benefit politically "if swing voters (who largely concur with Obama on the underlying issues) absorb the whole confusing chronology and decide that it exposes some sort of character flaw," but "very few people will sit still long enough to find out." [Stumper/Newsweek]

• Marc Ambinder writes that it's true that Obama has long held the view that an individual right to bear arms can be regulated for purposes of public safety. But "with regard to the D.C. law, it seems clear that Obama was okay with how D.C. government balanced those rights and is now okay with the seesaw swinging in the other direction." [Atlantic]

• Jennifer Rubin contends that Obama is making a small problem about gun rights into "a larger one of leadership and political courage." Voters "usually can spot someone trying to have it both ways," which is what Obama is trying to do in this case. [Contentions/Commentary]

• Massimo Calabresi contends that Obama's "sudden social centrism" on gun rights (and also the death penalty) "would sound more convincing in a different context," meaning, if he weren't trying to court "the independent and moderate swing voters so key in a general election." [Time]

• Chuck Todd and friends are also wondering whether the gun issue will matter anymore in the election. As others have argued, the "Republicans might no longer be able to argue that Democrats want to take your guns away." In addition, "wedge issues like guns — or abortion, or the death penalty, or gay marriage" — may not "resonate at all in what’s looking to be a change election." Plus, "while the pro-gun crowd is very leery of Obama, they aren’t necessarily that fired up about McCain." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Michael Powell places Obama's "Delphic" response to the Supreme Court decision in the context of his shift to the "vital center" on issues ranging from electronic surveillance to the death penalty to campaign finance. [NYT]

• Chris Cillizza thinks "it would be a mistake to assign too much political importance" to the Supreme Court's decision, as the "minds of the American people were made up long ago when it comes to guns and gun control," and "[e]xternal forces … seem unlikely to move big blocs of voters toward (or from) either candidate." [Fix/WP] —Dan Amira

Related: WSJ/Quinnipiac Poll: Obama Leads McCain in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado
The Fraught Details of Obama-Clinton Unity

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

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