Of Obama, guns and consequences

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Mark O'Connor fills out his federal background check paperwork as he purchases a handgun at the K&W Gunworks store on the day that President Obama announced his executive action on guns.

I'M BETTING that gun makers, sellers, and the NRA are pretty happy today.

That's because any time there's a push toward any sort of gun control, such as President Obama made yesterday, gun sales go up.

That means more guns in a nation that, according to the Congressional Research Service, already has more guns (357 million) than people (319 million).

It means more money for the guns and ammo trade, a $13.5 billion business, according to industry analysts.

And it likely means more members and political power for the NRA.

This is certainly an unintended consequence of efforts to reduce gun violence. But it is a consequence nonetheless.

FBI data on federal background checks - considered the most reliable measure of gun sales - show bumps in applications every time gun control gets a national airing.

Based on such data, The Washington Post this week reports applications jumped in December (in anticipation of another Obama run at control?) to a monthly record of 3.3 million.

The previous record, 2.7 million, was in December 2012, a month the issue was front and center following the gun murders of 20 first-graders and six teachers in Newtown, Conn.

December is also a big gun sales month because of gift-giving. And the national numbers get somewhat inflated because Kentucky, since 2006, runs background checks monthly for concealed-carry permit holders.

Still, there's plenty of evidence of the reactionary trend.

So far in Obama's second term, for example, the monthly average of background checks is 1.8 million. Under former President George W. Bush, the monthly average was 720,000.

And, no doubt due to the number of headline-grabbing mass shootings since Obama took office (20 with 178 people killed), and subsequent calls for some action on guns, there have been more background checks/gun sales under this president than under Presidents Bush and Clinton combined.

(Federal background checks were enacted under Clinton in 1993 and implemented by the FBI in 1998.)

Whether the president's call for, among other things, expanded checks and more federal agents actually happens and results in progress for control advocates is, as they say, an open question.

But if history's a guide, an all but certain result is more guns to check on.

And what of the politics?

The notion this issue impacts the presidential race strikes me as (sorry) a misfire.

It's great fodder for primaries. Both parties and their base voters are solid in stances on guns.

All Republicans running for president oppose Obama's efforts. Democrats running support them.

A CBS/New York Times poll last month shows why. It asked whether laws governing gun sales should be stricter, less strict or stay the same.

The result: 76 percent of Democrats said the laws should be stricter; 76 percent of Republicans said the laws should be less strict or stay the same.

Talk about your partisan divide.

And the reason the issue won't be top-tier in the general election?

It's too close to the bone of the average voter.

The latest CNN poll asking about stricter gun controls found 48 percent of voting-age Americans support such controls, 51 percent oppose them.

That's within the poll's margin of error.

As a rule, politicians playing to win avoid using such demonstrably divisive issues as part of their signature pitch.

We'll see if this year's nominees prove to be exceptions.

Obama, you may recall, never pushed hard on guns until after Newtown, which was after his reelection.

Plus, political reality surrounding the issue was evident even during Obama's emotional appeal for action yesterday.

While calling for, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., the "fierce urgency of now," Obama also said, "It won't happen during this Congress. It won't happen during my presidency."

I'm betting gun makers, sellers, and the NRA will be sad to see him go.

Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

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