The three Democratic presidential candidates currently leading in most polls were in Iowa this past weekend, each stressing the need to enforce current gun regulations in the wake of last week’s shooting rampage on the Virginia Tech campus.
During a stop in Marshalltown, New York Senator Hillary Clinton briefly referred to the Virginia Tech shooter as "crazed" as she answered an audience member’s question about Iraq and North Korea. During an interview with Radio Iowa afterwards, Clinton steered clear of calling for new restrictions on guns. "The first thing we ought to focus on is figuring out what has gone wrong in actually enforcing all the laws that we have," Clinton said. "….It’s come to light that Virginia hasn’t really enforced the provision in the Brady Bill to put information like being committed involuntarily, as the shooter was, into the database and then have the database effective enough so it pops up if somebody tries to buy a gun," Clinton said.
Some link election losses Democrats suffered in 1994 to the fact that some Democrats in congress who lost their reelection bids voted for the federal ban on so-called assault weapons — a ban that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The ban expired in 2004, under President Bush.
"You have to balance the Second Amendment rights against keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are unstable — and that has always been what everyone I know has been seeking to accomplish," Senator Clinton said. "Maybe this tragic incident will get us to think about how to get back to that balance."
At one point last week, Illinois Senator Barack Obama referred to the Virginia Tech gunman as "crazy" and during a weekend interview with Radio Iowa, Obama was cautious on the topic of gun control. "It’s early to make a full assessment on how this changes our politics and the public mood," Obama said. "I think all of us are still just overwhelmed with grief for the families and for Virginia Tech."
Obama, too, stressed the need to answer why the background check system failed in allowing the shooter to get guns in the first place. "The evidence, so far at least, indicates that you’ve got a young man who was mentally deranged, was identified as such, was temporarily committed and was still able to obtain handguns," Obama said.
While Obama suggested there may be a need for restrictions on so-called semiautomatic guns, he contends Democrats must steer clear of alienating "lawful" gun owners. "I’m a strong believer in the rights of hunters and sportsmen to have firearms. I’m a believer in homeowners having a firearm to protect their home and their family," Obama said. "It’s hard for me to find a rationale for having a 17-clip semiautomatic."
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards unveiled a rural agenda this past week that called for a crackdown on gun crimes. "I believe in the Second Amendment and I think it’s important for hunters rights to be protected. It’s part of my culture because of the way I grew up," Edwards said during a news conference Friday night in Des Moines. "But I don’t think you need an AK-47 to hunt…There’s some weapons that are not necessary for sportsmen and hunters."
Edwards, who backs a renewal of the assault weapons ban, also mentioned the breakdown in the Virginia system that allowed the Virginia Tech shooter to obtain a gun in the first place. "We need to do a better job of making sure that the registry that’s being used for the instant check includes people who’ve had some history of mental problems," Edwards said. "There’s a spotted history, but there certainly was some history about this gunman."
Click on the audio link below to hear the three candidates briefly address the issue.