Sign of the Times

You can read all the assessments you want of the politics of gun regulations (there’s a good assessment today by Sean Sullivan at Wonkblog of the likely fate of Obama’s legislative initiatives).

But if you want a quick indicator of how tough legislative action will be, check this out from the Rochester (Minnesota) Post-Bulletin:

On the day that President Obama proposed a sweeping package of gun-control measures, U.S. Sen. Al Franken signaled his support for several components of Obama’s plan.

Franken, speaking during a press event in Rochester, said he supports limits on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and tightening the nation’s system of background checks. But, he declined to say whether he supported a ban on assault weapons, a key provision of the president’s plan.

“I guess I don’t have an answer for you,” said Franken spokesman Marc Kimball, following a press conference during which the senator omitted a ban on assault weapons when asked about gun restrictions he might support.

Wow. I admit I haven’t followed Franken’s Senate career as closely as I might have, and yes, he’s up for re-election in 2014. But still–he’s Al Franken, and he seems fearful of supporting re-establishment of an assault gun ban that didn’t seem to leave any scars on U.S. freedoms during its ten years on the lawbooks.

Here’s the closest we get to an explanation in the Post-Bulletin piece:

Minnesota is home to a vibrant gun culture, as well as many retail and gun manufacturing outlets. In talking to Minnesota deer hunters, Franken noted that many use semi-automatic rifles, but use a clip that holds only a few rounds.

“I think most people agree that you don’t need 30 rounds to bring down a deer,” Franken said in arguing for ammunition magazine limits.

It’s going to be a long, weird debate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.