Where's the Debate Over Gun Control?

The campus shooting at Northern Illinois University may be old news by now, but forgive me for thinking it might have presented an opportunity at last night's debate for someone to ask Hillary or Obama about gun control. Can you remember the last time either candidate talked about it? The last time any Democratic presidential contender did? Thinking "Dems" and "guns" leaves me with images of John Kerry in a hunting outfit. Embarrassing.

Gun control used to be one of those bread and butter issues for Democrats, but recent years have seen the party's rapid evolution towards staunch protectors of the 2nd Amendement. When the Clinton-era assault weapons ban passed expired three years back, few in Congress leaped to renew it. The results have been deadly: As the Brady Campaign's Paul Helmke points out: "One thing the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University shooters had in common was that they both used high capacity ammunition magazines that would have been prohibited under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004."

Of course, easing up on gun control has been critical to the Dems courting voters in Western and Southwestern swing states; the more Democratic candidates have traded gun bans for wishy-washy pro-regulation positions, the more the NRA has rewarded them, upping their political contributions to the Dems. ''Certainly, we support more Republicans than Democrats," a public affairs director told the Boston Globe in 2005, "but we've seen in the last few years an increasing number of Democrats actively seeking the NRA endorsement and actually winning it."

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