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To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, Charlie Gibson questioned both Clinton and Obama about why they -- and the Democratic Party -- have avoided pushing for more stringent gun control measures over the last few elections.

Clinton sought to make a third way argument that surely made her husband smile, arguing that she supports the Second Amendment while also sympathesizing with those who want to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.

"I respect the Second Amendment," Clinton said. "I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns and use their guns. Most lawful gun owners also want to be sure we keep those guns out of the wrong hands."

Obama, surely cognizant of the danger of the question given his San Francisco "bitter" and "cling" comments, sought to downplay his past support for stringent gun control measures.

"As a general principle I believe the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms," Obama said. Pushed by George Stephanapoulos concerning his support for a total gun ban on a 1996 questionnaire, Obama said he had never supported such a proposal and quickly switched to the core message of his campaign: "We have to get beyond the politics of this issue and figure out what is working."

Neither candidate was willing to prolong the discussion, as they had done in responding to questions on Iraq and the economy -- a signal that gun control is a stone-cold loser for Democrats in a presidential race.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 16, 2008; 9:45 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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