Uphill fight for gun measures
Assault-weapons ban lacks any GOP support in Congress.
WASHINGTON - Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other members of Congress joined law enforcement officials, mayors, clergy, and victims of gun violence Thursday to propose a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like the ones used in recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado.
But one thing was missing that would be necessary for the proposal to have any chance of passage: Republicans. None of the 14 Senate cosponsors on the bill is Republican.
Nor are any Republicans expected Friday to attend a roundtable discussion on gun violence in Richmond, Va., led by Vice President Biden, who heads the Obama administration's gun-control effort.
Two Virginia Democrats, Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Bobby Scott, will participate in the discussion in Richmond, which is home to Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Biden's office said Cantor declined an invitation to attend.
Republicans control the House and hold 45 seats in the Senate, meaning no gun legislation can get through Congress without some GOP support. It is also unlikely that all Democrats would back it.
Banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips faces major obstacles.
"Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that - but it's a battle worth having," Feinstein (D., Calif.) said. "We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assault weapons with the growing threat to lives across America."
Feinstein launched her drive standing alongside gun-violence victims and law enforcement officials who will be crucial to her efforts to round up votes for the measure.
"I don't think people really understand the firepower that's out there on the streets," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said. "We're not trying to seize everybody's guns. But we need reasonable gun control in this country or, guess what, it will happen again," he added, referring to mass shootings.
Mayor Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke alongside Feinstein at the news conference introducing the proposals.
Assault weapons were used in shootings last month in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and eight adults, including the shooter, were killed, and last year in Aurora, Colo., where a dozen people were killed at a theater.
Feinstein led the 1994 effort to get an assault-weapons ban passed in a Congress then controlled by Democrats. President Bill Clinton signed the law, but it expired a decade later and was not renewed by the Republican-controlled Congress. Since 2004, 350 people have been killed and more than 450 people injured by such weapons, according to Feinstein.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, praised Feinstein's bill and said in a statement that the gun-control group would work with Congress to get it passed.
"The majority of Americans support the measures, and we will continue in our role of bringing the voice of the American public to Congress," he said.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 39 percent of the public sees the White House gun-control plan, which includes an assault-weapons ban, as "about right." Thirty-one percent said it goes too far.
The National Rifle Association, which opposed the original assault-weapons ban, said it was confident that Congress would reject the new legislation.
"Sen. Feinstein has been trying to ban guns from law-abiding citizens for decades," the NRA said in a statement. "It's disappointing, but not surprising, that she is once again focused on curtailing the Constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental-health system."
Gun-control supporters have not been able to match the NRA's might. According to the Sunlight Foundation, a government-spending watchdog group in Washington, the NRA hired 42 lobbyists last year, including a Democrat, former Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida. Gun-control groups employed eight.
Gun control has always been a politically radioactive subject for Congress. Though he champions new legislation now, President Obama barely mentioned gun control during either of his presidential campaigns.
But the Newtown shootings last month seemed to crystallize the anger and determination to do something about guns.
Feinstein and the cosponsors of her bill said they believe that Newtown was the last straw.
"If 20 dead children in Newtown wasn't a wake-up call that these weapons of war don't belong on our streets," she said, "I don't know what is."
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D., Ill.) said that he grew up in a hunting culture and that the legislation, which he is cosponsoring, would protect sportsmen.
This article contains information from the Los Angeles Times.