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Obama steps up pressure to pass gun measures
Question of the Day
With polls showing waning support for new gun control measures, President Obama delivered an emotional and forceful plea aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Congress to pass a broad bill more than 100 days after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Flanked by police officials and mothers affected by gun violence, Mr. Obama said “none of these ideas should be controversial” and they should be ashamed if people have already lost interest in December’s Sandy Hook massacre.
“Shame on us if we’ve forgotten,” Mr. Obama said Thursday at a White House event.
“Some voices on the other side” want to prevent any action on imposing more restrictions on gun ownership, he said. “Their assumption is that people will just forget about it.”
But Mr. Obama’s renewed his call for more comprehensive background checks and to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds face tough sledding on Capitol Hill.
It remains unclear what specific gun measures can actually get through the Democrat-controlled Senate, let alone the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Near-universal background checks on gun sales, including private sales, is likely the most ambitious piece of legislation gun control advocates can hope for at this point, and bipartisan talks on a compromise plan recently stalled after disagreements arose over record-keeping issues on the sales.
Several Senate Republicans on Thursday accused Mr. Obama of trying to benefit politically from mass shootings such as Newtown.
“The proposals the president is calling for Congress to pass would primarily serve to reduce the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens while having little or no effect on violent crime,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, in a statement released after the White House event. “It is deeply unfortunate that he continues to use the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, decided Thursday to join Mr. Lee and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas in threatening to filibuster gun control legislation that impedes peoples’ Second Amendment rights and to do so without “being subjected to government surveillance.” Earlier this week Mr. Lee, Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, of their intentions.
The White House is facing new polls that suggest the surge of popular support for new restrictions on gun ownership and sales right after Newtown has waned as Congress struggles to come up with an acceptable bill.
A CBS News poll released Tuesday shows public support for stricter gun control laws has dropped since December. Support for tougher gun laws stands at 47 percent this week, compared to 57 percent after the shootings. Thirty-nine percent want the laws kept as they are, and another 11 percent want them to be made less strict.
During his event, Mr. Obama paused a few moments several times in his remarks, referring to the 26 first-graders and educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I haven’t forgotten those kids,” he said as the women surrounding him teared up and some openly sobbed.
“Tears aren’t enough. Expressions of sympathy aren’t enough. Speeches aren’t enough,” Mr. Obama said.
In addition to more comprehensive background checks, Mr. Obama is calling for tougher laws against gun trafficking and straw purchases.
Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden also have lobbied hard for a ban on semi-automatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons. But Mr. Reid dropped the assault-weapons ban from the broader bill two weeks ago, saying there were not enough votes to pass it in the Senate.
The ban, proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, still can be offered as amendment, but it won’t be part of the base bill Mr. Reid is fashioning that faces an all-but-certain Republican filibuster.
After Mr. Obama’s renewed push Thursday, Mr. Reid’s spokesman angrily denounced the threat by a handful of Republicans to filibuster the broader gun legislation.
“While this threat is entirely unsurprising, it’s outrageous that these senators are unwilling to even engage in a debate over gun violence in America,” said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. “No matter your opinion on this issue, we should all be able to agree with President Obama when he said that the children and teachers of Newtown, along with all other Americans who have been victims of gun violence, at least deserve a vote.”
Ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who voted against the measure in committee, is reportedly crafting his own gun bill as well — a move that could undercut attempts to lure more Republicans and red-state Democrats to sign onto the package Mr. Reid intends to bring to the floor next month. That package also includes bills that did receive a modicum of bipartisan support: a bill intended to crack down on gun trafficking and straw purchasers (though Mr. Grassley was the only Republican to break ranks on that measure) and another intended to bolster school safety efforts.
The National Rifle Association and Republicans in Congress have fiercely opposed the assault-weapons ban, and the package faces an even more difficult road in the GOP-controlled House.
The White House event Thursday morning was coordinated with other rallies and gatherings planned in cities across the country on what supporters called “a national day of action.” The killer in Newtown used a semi-automatic rifle that would have been banned under Mrs. Feinstein’s proposal.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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