Mitt Romney should pull a Nixon to China on guns and call for reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons.
If Obama did it, he would look weak and appear to be capitulating to constituencies of the left. And nothing would happen. (Obama did support the ban during his 2008 campaign, but has done nothing since to push it.) If Romney did it, he would look strong by standing up to constituencies on the right and the NRA. And by providing leadership on the issue, he could bring important Republicans on board and actually get it passed.
It’s not like there isn’t precedent. The Bush administration, including Dick Cheney, supported a federal assault weapons ban in 2004.
In 1994 when he was running against Ted Kennedy, Romney said, “I don’t line up with the NRA.” And in 2004, he signed a Massachusetts law banning assault weapons.
And yet what does he say we can do today in the face of one the county’s worst massacres? “There is something we can do. We can offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering or heavy laden, and we can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado.”
And what does Obama say we can do? “If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile, our time here is limited and it is precious.”
We can do more than offer comfort. And we can take away more than a reminder that life is fragile. We can make sure a tragedy like Aurora never happens again by simply banning the weapon that was used to snuff out the life of 12 innocent victims.
Romney is a candidate in need of a moment where he can demonstrate that he is not hostage to special interests. Twenty years ago he said he didn’t line up with the NRA. He now has a chance to show he still doesn’t. Romney can show backbone and leadership by stepping up and calling for a reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban.