Is The Obama Administration Walking Back Its Commitment To Reinstating The Assault Weapons Ban?

In light of last week’s high-profile shooting sprees in which 16 people were killed, reporter Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whether the Obama administration would push to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban that Republicans allowed to expire in 2004. Gibbs refused to endorse the ban, saying only that Obama would focus on enforcing existing laws:

THOMAS: Is the president concerned about the epidemic of killings by guns and is he willing to move towards reinstating the ban on assault weapons?

GIBBS: Obviously, we, while we were overseas last week, were surprised and shocked at the news at what had happened in New York. … That’s one of the reasons that increased money to hire more police officers as in the Recovery Act. I was asked specifically about assault weapons. I think the president would — the president believes there are other strategies we can take to enforce the laws that are already on our books.

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The Obama administration seems to be clearly walking back its previous position relating to assault weapons. In an interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric that aired last night, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to endorse the assault weapons ban, saying, “I look forward to working with the NRA to come up with ways in which we can use common sense approaches to reduce the level of violence that we see in our streets.”

Yet just weeks ago, at the end of February, Holder said that one of the “gun-related changes” the administration would pursue “would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.” And during the presidential campaign, Obama said making the Assault Weapons Ban permanent was part of an integral strategy to defeating urban violence. “From South Central L.A. to Newark, New Jersey, there’s an epidemic of violence that’s sickening the soul of this nation,” Obama said in June 2007. “The violence is unacceptable and it’s got to stop.”

In fact, in the “Urban Policy” section currently on the White House website, the Obama administration affirms its support of reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban:

· Address Gun Violence in Cities: … Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.

In the wake of news-grabbing gun violence, why is the Obama administration now backing off its repeated pledge to ban the most dangerous weapons that Obama previously said “belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets“?