WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s call Monday to renew an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook school slaughter demonstrates his situational pragmatism.
In Chicago, Emanuel cited how he stood by the side of former President Bill Clinton when the assault weapons provision was passed and signed into law in 1994, when he was a White House adviser. Attempts to renew the ban — it expired in September 2004 — have gotten nowhere in Congress.
The omission here, of course, is a mention from Emanuel of where he stood with President Barack Obama when he was his chief of staff. Or when he was a House member — and also the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2006 cycle.
In January 2010 — when Emanuel was still Obama’s chief of staff — the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama an “F” on every issue on its gun control scorecard.
Emanuel’s personal voting record and legislative initiatives demonstrate a record of being supportive of gun control, but that is only part of his story. The raps on Emanuel and gun control in his leadership positions are multiple: One is that as chair of the DCCC he recruited pro-gun Democrats to run in 2006 — a decision driven by politics, not policy — which helped Democrats gain control of the House by winning conservative, pro-gun districts.
Another is that as chief of staff, Emanuel advised the Obama White House to back down from gun issues. Obama called for reinstating the ban during his 2008 presidential campaign, yet it got Attorney General Eric Holder in a jam.
Author Daniel Klaidman wrote in his book “Kill or Capture” that after Holder said he would push for the ban, “Emanuel was furious. He slammed his desk and cursed the attorney general. Holder was only repeating a position Obama had expressed during the campaign, but that was before the White House needed the backing of pro-gun Democrats from red states for their domestic agenda. The chief of staff sent word to Justice that Holder needed to ‘shut the —- up’ on guns . . .”
What we don’t know yet is what Obama wants to do about curbing gun violence. White House press secretary Jay Carney, who was asked every which way Monday, declined to cite any specific legislative remedies.
In the meantime, Democrats in Congress won’t be waiting on Obama, moving ahead on at least an assault weapons ban.
Sen. Dick Durbin announced that he will be holding hearings on Second Amendment gun rights.
“The Supreme Court raised questions about the Second Amendment, what are the protections? What are the responsibilities,” Durbin said on Fox News Sunday.
It remains to be seen what Sen. Mark Kirk — who backed reinstating the assault weapons ban while a House member and took a lead on the issue — will be doing as one of the few GOP voices for gun control. Kirk is returning to the Senate on Jan. 3, out almost a year after suffering a stroke.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is all over the gun control issue.
What actually will Emanuel — a master of tactics — do? Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton told me “he will have targeted public events that educate and stress the importance of passing an assault weapons ban while also working behind the scenes; the same thing he’s been doing on gun control bills for the last 20 years.”
That’s the situation.