Republican legislators and candidates responding to President Obama’s recent executive measures on gun control have openly and willfully distorted the president’s stated policies and ambitions. Thus, when Paul Ryan says “the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership,” it’s not because his listening and reading comprehension are so poor that he took the following words from Obama’s speech to mean their diametric opposite:
Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start—and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do—I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around—I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this—I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.
Nor do we have evidence that Obama’s words are empty, that he’s only verbalized support for the Second Amendment while taking contrary actions. In fact, the Obama presidency has been a resounding success for gun sales and production. So how are we to understand Ryan’s statement and like statements by Republican politicians?