Colorado Shooting Highlights Barriers to Tough Gun Control: Obama and Romney

Article excerpt

Early in their political careers, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney advocated tougher gun laws. But as President, Obama has been largely silent on the issue, and Romney has embraced gun rights.

There are two major reasons why the Colorado theater shooting rampage won't bring greater restrictions on the nation's extraordinary arsenal. They're both running for president: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Over the years, both men have moved from left to right - liberal to conservative - on controlling guns in the United States.

In Obama's case, he has stifled any earlier tendency to speak out on things like restricting the sale of assault rifles in the US. For Romney, it's been a steady march into the embrace of the all- powerful National Rifle Association since the time when he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in Massachusetts and declared, "I don't line up with the NRA."

They're both politicians, and they both can read public opinion polls. The trend there among voting Americans has been in the same direction.

Gun nation: Inside America's gun-carry culture

For a while after the Columbine High School mass shooting in Littleton, Colo. in 1999, that seemed not to be the case. "Given a choice between protecting the rights of gun owners and controlling gun ownership, two-thirds of Americans now favor restrictions on ownership of fire arms," the Pew Research Center reported at the time.

But that didn't last long, and now Gallup and other polling organizations find steadily growing opposition to stricter gun control. Since 2001, for example, support for a ban on the manufacture, sale, or possession of assault rifles has dropped from 59-43 percent, according to Gallup, while opposition to such a ban has climbed from 39-53 percent.

As a western state with an established gun culture, Colorado reflects this attitude.

Police report that the weapons possessed by alleged theater shooter James Holmes - a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock handguns - all had been recently and legally purchased from local gun dealers.

Like most states, Colorado law makes it difficult to deny the granting of permits allowing gun owners to carry them in a concealed fashion.

One reason? The relative political clout of advocacy groups.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the largest and oldest of America's gun-control groups, is a fraction of its peak size, Reuters reports. The center and an affiliated political arm had revenues of $5.9 million in 2010, the most recent year for which information is publicly available - down 27 percent in three years. …