Gun Control Is A Distraction

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Is it going too far to say that President Obama has seized on the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting as an opportunity to push an always-controversial gun control fight to distract from much more pressing issues, such as the nation’s horrendous fiscal position? President Obama has shown himself to be nothing if not the consummate opportunist.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” and all that.

“President Obama, the Democrats, and plenty of Republicans in Congress, would like it if you’d spend the next few weeks talking about gun control,” writes Glenn Reynolds for USA Today. “That’s because when you are, you’re not talking about the country’s financial situation.”

And, according to Gallup, Americans rank gun control pretty low on their list of priorities. It ranked a four-way tie in 6th place in the list of Americans’ top priorities, along with health care, taxes and ethics.

Americans’ concerns about the federal budget deficit and government dysfunction rose high enough in January to knock unemployment out of the top two slots on Gallup’s “most important problem” list for the first time since 2009.

The poll finds 20% of Americans mentioning the federal budget deficit as the top problem, compared with 18% mentioning dissatisfaction with some aspect of government or government leaders, and 16% naming jobs or unemployment.

This distribution of open-ended responses to the “most important problem” question underscores a general shift from the dominance of concerns about the economy and unemployment to an increasing focus on problems more directly associated with government. The economy and unemployment had ranked as the top two problems each month since December 2009.

Now, the “dissatisfaction with government” percentage is as high as it has been since the Watergate days of 1974, although the precise ways in which these open-ended questions have been coded has changed somewhat during that time. The percentage mentioning the deficit as the top problem is as high as it has been since 1996.

So why is Obama picking a fight on gun control? Probably because he’s spent his political capital on fiscal matters. He got his tax hikes, now he’s in the position of needing to explain why even more tax hikes are what the country needs to reduce deficits instead of spending cuts.

And he’d rather talk gun control.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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