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April 12, 2013

The great gun control fizzle

Rarely has the political class whipped itself into a lather that has abated so quickly. After the Newtown, Conn., massacre, so many invested so much hope in President Barack Obama's pledge to "use whatever power this office holds" to pass new gun control laws.

The president has certainly done his part. He has held rallies. He has used children as props. He has held events with parents of the little victims of Newtown. He has shamed the nation for its alleged forgetfulness over the terrible events of that day.

Yet the needle of public opinion is moving the wrong way. CBS News found that support for stricter gun laws dropped from 57 percent to 47 percent, and CNN from 52 percent to 43 percent. The headline on a CNN story on the latest polling was titled "Polls Suggest Congress Might Have Waited Too Long on Gun Control." It has waited all of four months.

But the assault-weapons ban has been deep-sixed by Democrats in the Senate. Same with any limit on the size of magazines. The argument now is all about increasing the reach of background checks, although any bill that can pass Congress will be much less extensive than the president or his supporters would like.

The gun control debate has shown the president again to be hopelessly detached as a legislative mechanic and ineffectual as a shaper of public opinion. Before writing rhetorical checks that his own party's majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, couldn't cash, the president might have at least consulted with the wily old son of a gun about what was plausible and adjusted accordingly.

It is true that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. Who can be against background checks? Heck, even the National Rifle Association wants states to keep more complete records of who is forbidden from purchasing guns.

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