On Wednesday January 16th, President Obama revealed his highly anticipated gun control plan, which included executive orders, mental health attention, and a highly controversial ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. In the wake of the tragic school massacre in Newtown, many of the president's more progressive supporters have been clamoring for new gun control measures, with many hoping to institute a law similar to the assault weapons ban that ended in 2004.
Although groups like the NRA have been unwavering in their position that more gun restrictions are simply counter-productive, many media outlets have reported that even among gun owning NRA members there seems to be a feeling that something has to change. Although the support for things like closing "gun show" loopholes and strengthening the mental health system is the highest, even measures like universal background checks and regulating the size of magazines seem to have fairly strong support. The problem with the President's proposal is that it combines those issues into the issue of an assault weapons ban, which does not receive anything near the broad range of support that previously mentioned policy proposals seem to have.
The major political issue for Obama and Democrats on the hill is that in the political fight that will inevitably occur when gun-regulating legislation comes up, opposition to one aspect of the plan (i.e. the assault weapons ban) could severely damage support for the seemingly much more achievable goals. The President and his allies may have been smarter to pass measures individually, not only to prevent all the hype and fear-mongering that occurs when large comprehensive programs are debated, but it would also force representatives to prove how controlled they are by the gun lobby. Many swing states are still pro-gun, but some representatives in those states might have a difficult time explaining why they voted against closing loopholes that allow anonymous customers to purchase weapons without any background checks. It seems on this issue the Obama team may have overplayed their hand.