President Obama's gun measures face a tough road in Congress
by Erica Werner, Associated Press
January 17, 2013 09:48 AM | 1408 views | 3 3 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, gestures as he talks about proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, gestures as he talks about proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's sweeping gun-control package faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill, where majority House Republicans are rejecting his proposals while the president's allies in the Democratic-controlled Senate are stopping well short of pledging immediate action.

The fate of his plan could ultimately hinge on a handful of moderate Democratic senators. Although they are unlikely to endorse the president's call for banning assault weapons, they might go along with other proposals, such as requiring universal background checks on gun purchases.

Several of these senators responded warily after Obama unveiled his proposals Wednesday with the challenge that "Congress must act soon."

"I will look closely at all proposals on the table, but we must use common sense and respect our Constitution," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Tester told the Missoulian newspaper in his home state recently that he supports background checks but doesn't think an assault weapons ban would have stopped the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman massacred 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.

Obama's proposals came a month after the shootings in Newtown, which he has called the worst day of his presidency. His announcements capped a swift and wide-ranging effort, led by Vice President Joe Biden, to respond to the deaths.

The $500 million plan marks the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades. It also sets up a tough political fight with Congress as Obama starts his second term needing Republican support to meet three looming fiscal deadlines and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"I will put everything I've got into this, and so will Joe," the president said. "But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it."

Seeking to circumvent at least some opposition, Obama signed 23 executive actions Wednesday, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence. But he acknowledged that the steps he took on his own would have less impact than the broad measures requiring approval from Capitol Hill. He is also calling for limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or less.

"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act," Obama said.

The question now is how and whether that happens.

House GOP leaders have made clear they'll wait for the Senate to act first, since they see no need to move on the contentious topic if it doesn't. "House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations. And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that," said Michael Steel, spokesman to House Speaker John Boehner.

Many rank-and-file Republicans scorched Obama's proposal. "The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama's disdain for the Second Amendment," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Senators are expected to begin discussions on how to proceed when they return to Washington next week from a congressional recess, according to a Democratic leadership aide who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They could end up breaking the president's proposals into individual pieces, with votes possibly starting next month.

The argument went trans-Atlantic Thursday when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is leaving the administration, talked to U.S. troops in Europe.

"Who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?" Panetta told the soldiers at the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in northern Italy. "For the life of me, I don't know why the hell people have to have assault weapons."

Panetta, who said he believes in the Second Amendment and has been a longtime duck hunter, was asked about the issue by a soldier who wanted to know what steps the Obama administration was going to take to deal with attacks in schools that "don't have to do with tearing apart our Second Amendment."

Known for his often blunt and colorful language, Panetta added that things can be done to protect children "so that the nuts that are out there won't use these kinds of weapons to wipe them out."

While the assault weapons ban is seen as having little if any chance of passage, support may coalesce behind requiring universal background checks, which is a top priority for advocacy groups that see it as the most important step to curbing gun crimes. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says 40 percent of gun sales are conducted with no criminal background checks, such as in some instances at gun shows or by private sellers over the Internet. Obama would seek to require checks for all sales.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., already has sponsored a bill to require universal background checks that the Senate could take up, while Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has legislation banning ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a gun-rights backer who's been supported by the National Rifle Association in the past, responded cautiously, saying he was committed to ensuring the Senate considers legislation on gun violence early this year. He didn't endorse any of Obama's proposals.

Despite the uncertainty on Capitol Hill and opposition from the powerful NRA, outside groups are encouraged by polling showing public support for changes to the law. They intend to try to harness that sentiment to pressure lawmakers.

A lopsided 84 percent of Americans back broader background checks, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws, the same poll showed, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style weapons.

"Now it's up to us," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign. He said his group would be working "to bring that voice to bear in this process, because without that it's not going to happen."


AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Concerned Gun Owner
February 14, 2013
Semi-automatic guns, guns with more than 6 bullets in a clip, assault rifles, and every other type of gun made on earth do not kill people. It is people who hold them, aim them at others, and pull the trigger who bear the full responsibility of their actions. Anyone who wants to shift blame on others (sound like Obama?) is going to shift blame to anyone else except the individual who pulled the trigger.

Do we go after the Budweiser Company because some redneck drank their beer and crashed his pick up truck into innocent bystanders. The answer is no; the person who uses deadly force of any kind is directly responsible for his actions.

Taking our example one step further, do we go after the pick up truck company that made the truck the red neck was driving? The answer is no; we go after the person who was driving the pick up truck. He was directly responsible.

The point here is to not create smoke and mirrors that mask the real problem that should be adressed. What is needed is people control, not gun control. We do not need those leaders who create smoke and mirror solutions and try to shift blame on the gun itself.
January 18, 2013
Instead of running commercials making themselves sound like the crazy people who should not have guns, why doesn't the NRA use all their countless power money and influence to help buy every gun owner a good gun safe that will last, and maybe increase, a lifetime?

I am not talking about the $100 so-called gun safes at WalMart or Costco that will just break in 4 or 5 years. If we all buy those, we'll be right back where we are by 2020 with free access to guns in so many households: The will all be rich from drilling open bad safes, but the safes will be left hanging open due to the expense of repairing a bad safe.

NRA, I am talking about helping EVERYONE buy a good gun safe that's big enough to hold long guns. Those suckers cost $1,100 at the very least. Many run into the $4000s and $5000s.

Stop trying to help yourselves, NRA. Help fix the situation instead. Please? Obama doesn't have much of a clue how to fix it, but you could help if you were just willing to do it.

NRA, with your influence and strong lobby you could easily lobby the Feds to give gun safe purchase tax credits like the credits for insulation and electric cars.

NRA, you could surely get BIG discounts on gun safes for NRA members, leveraging those discounts to increase your own membership while increasing gun knowledge and safe storage and safe usage.

Instead you run attack ads about the Secret Service having guns? You make the claim is "it's not the guns, it's the people" but you are immeditately outraged by Obama's edicts that are virtually all about the people?

NRA, your only apparent goal here is to scare the gullible into joining the NRA and paying dues. You could work smart and bring reasonable people into the association, but instead you veer further right and try to fearmonger the paranoid into paying your dues?

NRA, it's time to grow up and help the USA.

Rich Pellegrino
January 19, 2013
Well said, VFP.

But I think the President, and the team which advised him, also has some great proposals, to help alleviate the gun safety and violence problem this nation has--including universal background checks and a ban on certain weapons and magazines---it's just common sense.
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