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Obama's efforts on gun control have little to show

<p>President Barack Obama made a promise in October to use his bully pulpit to politicize gun control. But he hasn’t followed through — he hasn’t scheduled a single speech on the topic, instead simply reacting to shooting after mass shooting. And he’s stopped pushing for any real legislation with members of Congress.</p><p>Obama frequently repeats his promise to do something. But aides say he’s essentially given up on any significant gun control passing during his presidency.</p><p>Aides acknowledge that they have no strategy for dealing with Congress that leads to significantly tighter gun laws. In fact, since the failure of a bill on universal criminal background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the ranks of anti-gun control Republicans in Congress have only grown.</p><p>Obama doesn’t want to admit it, but the “new normal” he keeps warning against is, in fact, <a href=”http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015″ target=”_blank”>mass shootings </a>— at least 350 so far this year, not to mention the people killed by other gun violence or accidents. But despite Obama’s repeated promises to do whatever he can to combat the epidemic, to not let the issue fade, little happens until the next shooting happens and he responds with another brief statement about how he’ll do more and not let the issue fade.</p><p>On Friday, gun control advocates will head to the White House for the latest in a series of meetings — scheduled before the shooting that killed 14 in San Bernardino, California — to talk new potential gun measures, which the White House points to as evidence of a focus that hasn’t let up. The process of reviewing potential new executive orders that would limit private gun sales and close the gun show loophole, Earnest said again on Thursday, is still chugging along, though he didn’t have any details or deadlines to announce.<br /><b> </b><br />There’s an undeniable pragmatism underlying the president’s approach: Obama knows this Congress won’t pass new gun laws—the Senate, after all, blocked two new measures just Thursday afternoon, while the nation was coming to grips with the San Bernardino massacre.</p> <p>White House aides often insist people should pay more attention to their actual efforts rather than whatever emoting does or doesn’t come out of the president. Aides claim soft progress: People are talking about gun control more, and all the Democratic presidential candidates are all pushing for stronger gun control, in a change. Obama aides say the president deserves credit for both.<br /><b> </b><br />And besides, with mass attacks seemingly more frequent, by giving a statement every time there’s another mass shooting Obama is still talking about gun violence more than just about anything else.</p> <br><p> “As a practical matter, this is a debate that the country’s paying attention to right now, and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s been more prominent in that debate than President Obama,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.</p> <p>Obama has just over a year left in office, and he keeps saying he’s liberated, without much to lose. But taking on a more direct battle on gun control with Congress could complicate the rest of his agenda, not to mention 2016 prospects for Democrats with a history of losing races when gun control’s in play. The president met with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday to discuss criminal justice reform, but according to a readout from the White House, other than a briefing on the San Bernardino attack, the president did not take the opportunity to discuss gun control with the Democrats and Republicans present. <br /><b> </b><br />On the morning after the San Bernardino attack, Obama turned the focus to the states instead, where more gun control measures have been passing.</p> <p>“It’s going to be important for all of us — including our legislatures — to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it,” Obama said in a statement in the Oval Office. “Because right now, it’s just too easy.”</p> <p>The San Bernardino shooting poses its own complications for the White House, with Obama acknowledging Thursday morning that he didn’t yet know whether the incident was an act of terrorism. That was more careful than Obama’s initial comments Wednesday evening, when he responded to the news by repeating his call for people on the no-fly list to be banned from buying guns. Earnest in his daily briefing repeated that and urged Congress again to renew the assault weapons ban.</p> <p>“We’ve got too many members of Congress who are terrified of the NRA, when right now we’ve got too many Americans who are terrified of a mass shooting,” Earnest said.</p> <p>Capturing the political dilemma, Republicans complain about Obama’s lack of response — and they complain about the response that he’s proposed too. </p> <p>“He always says the same thing, yet he never says anything specific,” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told POLITICO on Thursday afternoon.</p> <p>Asked what he makes of Obama’s specific proposals about the no-fly list change and assault weapons ban renewal, Huckabee said he believes those demonstrate a president speaking in code while working to grab everyone’s guns.</p> <p>“People who value the Second Amendment realize that the real agenda is something different from what he’s saying — and that’s where it becomes polarizing.”</p> <p>The political debate has turned completely since he was first running in 2008, when both Obama and Clinton tried to present themselves as comfortable with guns and respectful of hunters. Then they were both downplaying that they were for tough gun control.</p> <p>Now Clinton’s backed the same “common sense” no-fly list gun ban and other measures that Obama’s supporting, neither of them bashful about being for gun control.</p> <p>The big gun control groups are wary about saying anything about Obama that would take the focus off Congress. </p> <p>Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence President Dan Gross said that he feels that the fears of terrorist attacks — even before the San Bernardino shooting and the suspicions of radical Islamic ties to the shooters that have been raised — was already helping move the gun conversation forward. </p><p>Thursday’s Senate vote may have failed he said, but just getting it to happen was an unexpected sign of progress.</p> <p>“We have seen over this past week how quickly an important social conversation can really change how we look at an issue,” Gross said. </p> <p>Privately, though, leaders of the groups grumble: They still get invited to intermittent brainstorming sessions at the White House where they hear talk about securing a legacy with some more moves, and then they wait as nothing real happens.</p> <br><p>White House aides point to what Obama did after Sandy Hook as proof of his commitment to making new gun control laws happen. People who were involved on the Hill at the time remember those efforts <a href=”http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/joe-biden-gun-control-effort-sandy-hook-214644″ target=”_blank”>differently</a>, with Obama shifting from one of the most stirring speeches of his presidency at the memorial service for the murdered children collapsing into a month of waiting to announce a commission to come up with proposals, all while key legislators waited to hear from the president as the momentum in Congress stalled out.</p> <p>People familiar with White House discussions at the time remember an internal reticence as well, with the president worried about going too far on his own in the months before he shifted into full executive action mode.</p> <p>There was an after-action report delivered to the president in which aides laid out what went wrong and options for going further, but by then, the sense of urgency had faded, the NRA had reemerged from hiding and the White House was moving on to other issues itself.</p> <p>Since the Senate vote failed, 1,240 people have been killed and 3,569 injured in mass shootings, according to data compiled by the website Mass Shooting Tracker. People have offered up prayers and condemnations. There have been hashtags. Lots of special report graphics on cable news.</p><p> “It feels kind of predictable,” Earnest admitted, looking at out at the reporters in the White House Briefing Room. “Are you guys tired of it too? Maybe I’m the only one.”</p><br>

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