Neither major political party wants to touch the gun control question in next year’s campaigns, and even a Supreme Court ruling might not force the issue, said experts yesterday at John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s annual Guggenheim Symposium on Crime. In fact, mayors who are campaigning for tighter restrictions on gun availability have “changed the language” by talking about “crime control” rather than gun control, said John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Feinblatt conceded that the outlook is “dismal” for any significant gun control measures in the current Congress. “Neither party wants to take this on,” he said. Prof. Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York-Cortland, author of “The Politics of Gun Control,” noted that many Democrats still blame gun control for the defeat of their 2000 presidential candidate, Al Gore.
Spitzer sees the possibility that gun control could be a “sleeper issue” next year, in large part because of the “wild card” presented by the pending Supreme Court case on whether Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment. Even if the court strikes down the ban, however, candidates who have favored other gun control could avoid the issue by saying they agree that total bans on guns are inappropriate, Spitzer said. Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said law enforcement leaders would continue to fight for “reasonable and common sense” curbs on firearms despite the political odds against them in the short term.