Nearly a month after the massacre of 27 people in Newtown, Conn.
, lawmakers on Capitol Hill
are dialing back expectations on what Congress can – or should – do on its own to curb gun violence.
After initial expressions of outrage, lawmakers and the White House
are getting down to counting votes on what can actually be achieved on Capitol Hill, where limits on gun rights have has been a taboo for more than a decade.
On Sunday, top gun lobbyists predicted that there’s not enough support in Congress for a new ban on assault weapons and that even curbs on high-capacity magazine clips were in doubt.
“When a president takes all the power of his office, if he’s willing to expend political capital, you don’t want to make predictions,” said David Keene
, president of the National Rifle Association
, on CNN
’s “State of the Union.”
“But I would say that the likelihood is that they’re not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through the Congress,” he added.
Since the Sandy Hook
shootings, gun sales and request for background checks have spiked, in anticipation of new curbs on guns. The NRA reports that it has gained 100,000 new members since the Dec. 14 shootings and expects to soon top 5 million members.
There's a window for action after incidents like the Sandy Hook shootings, and that window is beginning to close, says Julian Zelizer
, a congressional historian at Princeton University
in Princeton, N. J. "Memories of the shooting start to fade, the NRA starts to be more comfortable, reformers start to back off and they are much more timid."
"If Obama wants to do something, he has to make this front and center, because it's getting harder by the day," he adds.
Vice President Joe Biden
, who met last week with a wide range of interest groups on gun violence, is expected to deliver recommendations to the president on Tuesday.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are proposing measures to renew the assault weapons ban, limit the size of high-capacity magazine clips, require universal background checks, increase mental health screenings, and pressure Hollywood and the video game industry to dial back the violence.
Sen. Joe Manchin
(D) of West Virginia
electrified the pro-gun control community when he announced that the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook “changed me,” and called on his “friends in the NRA” to be “at the table” on preventing gun violence.
But his main focus in appearances on Sunday talk shows was to assure gun owners that Congress will not rein in gun rights.
“I would tell all of my friends in the NRA, I will work extremely hard and I will guarantee you that there will not be an encroachment on your Second Amendment rights,” he said on ABC
’s “This Week.”
“An assault weapons standalone ban on just guns alone will not go anywhere in the political reality we are in,” Senator Manchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” It has to be a “comprehensive approach,” he added, including mental health and video violence. The issues is not guns, he said, it’s a “culture of mass violence.”
The assault weapons ban passed mainly with Democratic votes in 1994 contributed to the GOP
takeover of the House (for the first time in 40 years) in November elections that year. The loss of pro-gun Democratic voters in states like West Virginia also helped sink Al Gore
’s presidential bid in 2000. It’s been a toxic issue for most Democrats
Most Republicans still oppose curbs on gun rights. “We obviously have a situation where crazy people, deranged individuals are having access to guns,” said Sen. John McCain (R)
’s “Face the Nation
” on Sunday. But “just taking guns away from people” is not the answer, he added.