What Wasn't in Obama's State of the Union: Gun Control

President Barack Obama. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The most glaring omission in President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night was the lack of any mention of the gun control issue.

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy, gun control advocates have been pressuring Mr. Obama to take a strong stand in favor of the gun control legislation being put forth in Congress. But the White House has stayed conspicuously silent.

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And while Mr. Obama opened his speech Tuesday night with a reference to that tragedy, he elected to stay away from the hot-button issue of whether new gun control laws should come out of it. That follows his behavior in the days and weeks since the shootings, other than a glancing reference to gun control in his speech memorializing the shooting victims.

"[H]ow can President Obama tell us in his State of the Union speech tonight that 'the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that all deserve the chance to be fulfilled,' without talking about the gun violence that destroyed those dreams?" Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, asked after the speech.

He added: "We need the president's support now for changes in our laws to ban large capacity ammunition magazines, to tighten restrictions on who can legally purchase a gun, and to require effective background checks before these guns can be purchased."

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The most likely legislation to come out of the shooting is a bill from Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey to ban the high-capacity clipsallegedly used by Jared Lee Loughner in the attack. Such clips allow for 33 shots without reloading instead of about 10 in a normal clip.

The White House maintains that Mr. Obama has been clear in his support for a ban on assault weapons. It has given indications that the president will eventually address the topic, though it is not clear when.

Democrats have largely shied away from the gun control issue in recent years, having apparently concluded that it will hamper their efforts to expand the electoral map into traditionally red areas.

"Just two and a half weeks ago we had 13 people wounded,six killed including a Congresswoman wounded, a federal judge killed," Politico's Roger Simon said on CBS News' State of the Union webcast Tuesday night. "Democrats saw this as a way to renew the vigor and the argument about doing something small and sensible like banning high capacity magazines for handguns. President Obama doesn't seem to be signaling that he's getting on that."

CBS News' Katie Couric asked senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett about the omission in an interview after the speech. (See at left, at the end of the video.)

"The purpose of tonight's speech was to focus on the economy," she said. "...in the days, weeks ahead I'm sure the president will have more to say about gun violence."

Also unmentioned in the speech: The Gulf oil spill. While the president did discuss how "With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels" and call for "Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies," he did not specifically address the spill that devastated the Gulf region last year.

And while there was some mention of foreign policy in the speech, it was certainly not the focus. The president said America "stands with the people of Tunisia" but did not mention Egypt or Lebanon, and he spent a relatively small portion of the speech on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran. Also unmentioned: the Middle East peace process.

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