Even after Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden on December 19 to lead a committee that would draw up proposals on curbing violence, few expected much to come of it. On December 30, David Gregory asked Obama on Meet the Press what his top priorities were. After Obama listed immigration, the economy, energy, and taxes. Gregory responded, "Those are four huge things and you didn't mention... new gun regulations... Do you have the stomach for the political fight for new gun control laws?" Obama said, "You know, David, I think anybody who was up in Newtown, who talked to the parents, who talked to the families, understands that, you know, something fundamental in America has to change." But Gregory still was skeptical:
GREGORY: But can you get it done? I mean the politics...
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And...
GREGORY: ...is the question.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: ...so the question is are we going to be able to have a national conversation and move something through Congress. I'd like to get it done in the first year. I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden's task force is putting together as we speak. And so this is not something that I will be putting off.
Today, Obama showed he meant what he said. Here's what was different following the Newtown attack.
Obama doesn't have to run for a second term.
After Attorney General Eric Holder said Obama would push to reinstate the assault weapons ban in early 2009, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel demanded he "shut the [bleep] up." After hearing Holder's comment, former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman reportedly called Valerie Jarrett's office and asked her aide, "You guys have already given up on having a second term?"
Democrats have already lost the votes of the most intense gun enthusiasts.
Some Democrats think gun control cost Al Gore the 2000 election, because he lost states like West Virginia, Missouri, Arkansas and his home state of Tennessee. But as The New Republic's Nate Cohn explains, abandoning gun control didn't win those voters back. (John Kerry repeatedly paraded around in Ohio in hunting garb, and still lost the state.) Cohn writes:
The success of Democrats in well-educated suburbs has placed Republicans in a situation not too dissimilar from the one facing Democrats at the beginning of the last decade. To win nationally, Republicans will need to reclaim the socially moderate suburbs around Denver, Washington, and Philadelphia where gun control is at least a neutral issue, if not a real asset to Democrats.
The public reacted strongly to the Newtown massacre.
Mass shootings usually have had a moderate impact on public opinion, as this chart from the Huffington Post's Mark Blumenthal demonstrates:
But recent polls have shown an increase in support for new gun laws. A Gallup poll this week showed a 13-point spike in dissatisfaction with gun laws: