Mitchell Reports | July 27, 2012
>>> president obama meanwhile has spoken out about gun control this week. critics say the first time really since taking office. responding to pressure from the national urban league and gun control advocates in the aftermath, of course, of the aurora, colorado rampage.
>> recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. but i also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that ak-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals.
>> in his interview with brian williams this week, mitt romney said that he does not believe america needs new gun laws but he seemed to leave an opening, small opening, perhaps, for stricter background checks .
>> there have been in the past, there has been an effort to say let's do background checks on people who seek to obtain weapons and those kind of background checks are oftentimes able to find people who are disturbed or people who committed crimes in the past, and i have indicated that those kinds of background checks consistent with the law can help prevent a crime.
>> joining me now is the " washington post " ruth marcus and national journal 's major garre garrett. we're not going to see either campaign address this or embrace it. jay carney was again saying today it's because congress won't take it up. nobody supports it because of the power of the nra or not?
>> well, the president doesn't feel and mitt romney doesn't feel this is terrain worth revisiting. i wrote this week that there are executive powers the president possesses where it wouldn't require an executive order . he could use things previous presidents have used, including a once card carrying member of the nra, george herbert walker bush , that would not have prevented aurora, colorado. i'm not recommending these as policy choice, just saying there are things available to the president that he could do under executive power that already exist, have been accepted by the courts, that could tighten access to assault weapons and do things that gun control advocates believe would enhance public safety . they are outlined on the website, national journal .com. but the justice department and the white house are totally silent as to whether or not the president is even looking into these things, let alone doing them. the president suggested the urban league speech his hands are completely tied. my piece suggests they are not.
>> ruth, it is very clear there was a resounding silence from the president after the gabby giffords event, even in his state of the union speech , no mention of guns.
>> well, it's not a surprise but it is a disappointment. i had to, when i was listening to the president after he met in the hospital room with the poor young woman who had had her blood spurting out of her throat and the friend who saved her, and i thought how frustrated must he be not to be able to come out and say we have to get these kinds of guns off the streets. one of the things that's amazing is both of these candidates in the past have supported more serious forms of gun control and they feel incapable in the current political environment of doing that. major's colleague, ron brownstein, actually has an interesting column arguing that it would not be at least for the president, political suicide that some people think, that the kinds of voters that are still up for grabs for him, college educated women, minorities, are actually supportive of gun control but obviously, as you can see from the white house 's response, the campaign's response, and everybody on the hill, that's not the conventional wisdom .
>> they're worried about west virginia , missouri, pennsylvania, ohio, michigan. they're worried about places where -- north carolina , virginia, clearly -- where the gun lobby is very, very important and there is a conventional wisdom that the 1994 midterm losses by the democrats was because of the assault weapon ban.
>> that is a myth that has grown far larger than actually existed at the time. that was a factor. it wasn't the dominant factor. there were many factors in 1994 . there is also a theory that has built up around al gore . he was the down. there's a sense among democrats that was the last time it was brought up and they didn't win and they should shy away from it. the other thing at the state level is longer prison sentences, concealed carry laws and other laws have moved this process forward where gun control has proceeded and gun rights have expanded.
>> thank you very much. up next, what's next from london.