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Independent Voters Largely Unconcerned about Gun Control

by Debbie Sharnak, published

In last Tuesday’s debate, Nina Gonzalez, one of the undecided voters selected to attend the town hall debate, asked a question about gun control:

"President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"

Obama answered the question by coming out in support of renewing the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and talking about comprehensive preventive strategies. Meanwhile, Romney, in one of his less impressive answers of the night, focused on the “culture of violence,” drifting from education, to two parent nuclear homes, and finally on a far stray from the question at hand, a botched Mexico sting.

Luckily for Romney, the National Rifle Association’s political arm has already endorsed his ticket and is spending millions to support his campaign. However, Obama, as most democrats do, had a lot more at stake in the gun control question. So, did Obama’s answer take this into account or have an effect on voters?

Obama’s relative timidity with response to the question seemed to stem from recent polls that, despite an increase in violence attacks in places like Aurora, CO and Oak Creek Wisconsin, show that voters are fairly unconcerned about gun control issues. In swing states like Wisconsin, a majority believes that stricter laws would not have prevented violent attacks.

In fact, Wisconsinites have actually expanded access to guns the past two years since Governor Walker took office, passing a conceal and carry law, which produced over 20,000 applicants in the first week.  They also expanded the controversial self-defense bill, the now infamous “castle doctrine,” spotlighting the way that guns play a prominent place in Wisconsin politics today. For this reason, it appears that Obama sought to not offend voters in swing states, giving a vague answer to the question, which Romney’s meandering response allowed the president to stray even further away from the real issues at stake in gun control.

In a debate that was high for drama and intrigue but short in answering many of the directed questions and providing strong answers, the gun control question seemed to pander to the non-offensive rather than clarifying either candidate’s position on a side of the gun control debate.

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