Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are ducking the gun-control issue, say McClatchy Newspapers. Republican John McCain has signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban. Clinton and Obama did not sign a rival brief from other members of Congress who back the tough gun restrictions. For years, the national party has downplayed its historic sympathy for gun control for fear that emphasizing it would be politically costly. Democratic politicians are “nervous about the gun issue, so they stay away from it,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Democrats have been skittish about gun control since 1994, when their support for a ban on 19 types of assault weapons was one reason that the party that year lost control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has said guns are a state issue. In Illinois, Obama has backed backed banning the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns in the state; his spokeswoman now says he “believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he greatly respects the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms.” Obama also believes the Constitution permits state and local governments to adopt reasonable and commonsense gun-safety measures. Clinton, using almost identical words, says, “I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms. But I also believe that we can commonsensically approach this.” Whoever still is in the race will be asked to be more specific when the court rules, probably in June.