Roger Simon at the Politico thinks McCain is keeping one of his best weapons holstered. Simon starts with some conventional gun-rights wisdom that seeming weak on gun rights cost Gore the presidency in 2000, then notes:
….considering that the McCain/Palin ticket is now battling for its life in small town and rural America, you would think the McCain campaign would be out there talking about guns every day……
…..On Sept. 5, in Duryea, Pa., Obama held a town hall meeting and Joan O'Neil rose from the audience and said, "There are rumors going around that …you're going to take away our guns."
The press reported that heads nodded in agreement in the audience. (Pennsylvania, which John McCain almost certainly has to win if he is to win the presidency, has the highest per capita National Rifle Association membership in the country.)
Obama gave his standard reply. "I believe in the Second Amendment, and if you are a law-abiding gun owner you have nothing to fear from an Obama administration," he said. "The Second Amendment is an individual right … people have the right to bear arms. But I also believe there is nothing wrong with some common-sense gun safety measures."
But some gun owners don't appear to be reassured. The Washington Post on Monday reported that while Americans are cutting back on purchasing some items because of a bad economy, purchases of "firearms and ammunition have risen 8 to 10 percent this year, according to state and federal data."
One reason, the articles says, may be fear "that if Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wins the presidency, he will join with fellow Democrats in Congress to enact new gun controls."
But has McCain really exploited this? McCain did make a speech to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance on Sept. 28, in which he did whack Obama over guns, but the speech did not get a lot of coverage and I don't recall McCain devoting much time to the issue since.
True, the NRA is running its own ads against Obama, but voters expect that. Where are the McCain ads, lending his voice to this issue?
This article from today's Washington Times surveys some gun-rights activists voices, sounding scared of Obama.
I agree with Simon that McCain would have been smart to play to the gun-rights community and get them nervous about Obama with a bit more avidity. I still don't think it would have turned things around for him. And while it's likely Obama in his heart is as anti-gun-rights as his most fervent opponents fear, I also doubt, with 2010 so close, that anything related to guns on the federal level will be a big priority for his adminstration or a Democrat-run Congress.
My book on the game-changing Heller case, Gun Control on Trial, will be out in just a couple of weeks; look for an excerpt of it in the December issue of reason.
Hat tip: Dan Gifford.