It’s generally hard to pinpoint the moment when a politician self-destructs — the “Dean scream” moments are few and far between. Campaigns tend to fall apart as part of a cascade of mistakes, where the number of things going wrong simply becomes insurmountable.
Barack Obama didn’t have a “Dean scream.”
If anything, future pundits will look back to Mitt Romney’s commanding performance at the first presidential debate in Denver as the beginning of the end of Obama’s presidency, but perhaps a response to a question at the second debate at Hofstra put the final nail in Obama’s electoral coffin.
When asked what he would do to restrict the availability of so-called “assault weapons,” the president offered the vague platitudes one would expect from a foundering candidate, before inexplicably reintroducing two unpopular gun measures:
We have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement. But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re using cheap hand guns.
Obama not only attacked the best-selling and most widely distributed firearms in the United States, he also obliquely suggested he wants to disarm the poor.
The “assault weapons” ban was a provision embedded in a 1994 crime bill. It bizarrely banned several kinds of firearms by name, and made others illegal if they had a number of arbitrary cosmetic features. It also banned the new manufacture of magazines holding more than ten rounds.
The cartoonish law was dealt with as Americans have always dealt with the absurd: with mockery. Firearms banned by name changed their names. Firearms that were banned because they had a certain number of arbitrary cosmetic features rendering them criminal simply changed their features.
A company named Intratec made their contempt of the banning of their TEC-9 pistol clear. They removed the threads on the end of the barrel (which no one ever used) and dropped the superfluous barrel shroud (a stamped piece of sheet metal that keeps the shooter’s hand from touching a hot barrel). They reintroduced the gun the next day as the AB-10, with the AB meaning “after ban.”