Gun Laws & Legislation

White House mum about guns on Giffords anniversary

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head last Jan. 8, but the White House is downplaying the likelihood of any White House campaign-trail effort to restrict gun ownership.

“I don’t have anything new for you,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday when asked about the anniversary. “It’s a solemn occasion. … It’s a remarkable recovery that Congresswoman Giffords has made, but we can never forget the lives lost on that day,” he added.

President Barack Obama’s poll ratings are low, especially in swing-states, and he’s shown no willingness to publicly challenge or antagonize gun-owners or other critical swing-voting blocs.

For more than a decade, Democratic officials have sidelined numerous calls by allied activist groups for new curbs on guns. The shift followed the Democrats’ defeat in the 2000 presidential election, when gun-rights activists helped Vice-President Al Gore lose his home state of Tennessee to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

In the days after Giffords shooting, numerous Democratic activists tried to pin the blame on Republicans, including former Gov. Sarah Palin, and also demanded new curbs on gun ownership.

The gunman was eventually identified as Jared Lee Loughner, and his friends later described him as a drug-using conspiracy theorist who also hated former President George W. Bush.

Loughner killed six people and wounded thirteen, including Giffords when he shot her in the head at close range. (RELATED: Full coverage of Gabrielle Giffords)

Since then, Giffords has made a remarkable recovery, but is not fully healed.

Following the shooting, White House officials hinted they would revive a gun-control effort.

In March 2011, Obama published a token statement on gun-curbs in the Arizona Daily Star, saying “our focus right now should be on sound and effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.”

He called for stronger legislation to require more careful background checks of prospective gun-owners, develop a new high-tech network to speed background checks, and called for federal incentives for states to collect data about their residents’ gun-ownership.

But he also hedged his support for gun-curbs. “I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. And the courts have settled that as the law of the land … [and] the fact is, almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible.”

Asked by a reporter about the Arizona op-ed, Carney replied Dec. 5 that “I think we have put forward some positions on this, and I don’t have anything new for you on it.”

In July, Carney told reporters that “the president directed the Attorney General to form working groups with key stakeholders to identify common sense measures that would improve American safety and security while fully respecting Second Amendment rights. … We expect to have more specific announcements in the near future.”

No subsequent announcements have yet been made.

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