Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has said there will be discussion going forward on gun control but has not elaborated.(Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress have talked more openly about gun
control and safety since Friday's mass shooting at a school in Newtown,
Conn., than they have in years, but many obstacles remain before any new
laws are passed.
The hurdles begin with the House, where
anti-regulation Republicans still dominate, and continue into the Senate
where, in addition to Republican opposition, vulnerable Democrats up
for re-election in 2014 have not openly supported any change in the law.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and
more than a dozen other House Democrats called on Republicans to join
them in backing measures that would ban high-capacity magazines and
improve background checks for prospective gun buyers.
the handful of gun-control bills introduced in the House in the 112th
Congress, all are sponsored by Democrats. McCarthy's bill to ban
high-capacity magazines has more than 130 co-sponsors, none of which are
While several prominent Republicans have publicly
said there needs to be an examination into what cultural and policy
failures have contributed to the recent spate of mass shootings, few
have said they would support renewing the ban on assault weapons or
limiting high-capacity magazines.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said they will "take a look" at the proposals they present.
"Right now our focus is, and should be, on the victims, their families, and their community," Steel said.
said she planned to meet with Boehner after the New Year to discuss the
best way to work with Republicans on gun-related legislation.
"We are looking over those that voted for gun bills before, we're going
to wait until after the first of the year and then I'll have time with
the bill, look at it, talk to them about and we'll get some people on
there," she said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he opposed
another assault-weapons ban and wasn't sure a ban would stop anyone
determined to kill.
"It's a horrible thing that happened in
Connecticut but I don't want to create a false sense of security out
there about passing something that really won't change things," Graham
said. "But I don't know."
"I think when we come back next year we
are going to be looking at every facet of the causes of what happened
there and in multiple places," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn."I don't
want to answer questions right now about specific things that are
driving some agenda, I want to look at everything."
Republicans in the Senate, only Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she
would support renewing the assault weapons ban, according to National Journal.
a statement on her Senate website following the shootings in Newtown,
she noted she had also supported instant background checks to help
ensure that guns are not sold to felons or the mentally ill.
Collins is also one of the only vulnerable incumbents in the Senate to take a position on the issue.
such as Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who backed a House-passed bill
making it easier for those with concealed-weapons permits to cross state
lines, have said there will be discussion going forward but has not
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., told the Associated Press
in a statement that the shootings "raised serious questions about the
culture of violence in our society - questions that deserve careful
reflection on everything from access to mental health care to the video
games our children play."
Former representative Mike Castle,
R-Del., who voted for the first assault-weapons ban in 1994, predicted
some members of the GOP could eventually support more background checks.
"It's hard to find a real rationale for assault weapons ... if you used
those types on a deer it would just blow it apart," he said. "It was
pretty close before but I think there has been a change in momentum."
There is more interest among Republicans on addressing the role of mental illness in mass shootings.
Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said his colleagues on both sides of the aisle
wanted to do more on mental illness. .there was broad interest among his
colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the role of mental
illness in mass shootings.
"I've already asked to review every
federal program that we have that puts money into mental health programs
... is the money being spent wisely? Is it getting into communities, is
it effective?," said Murphy, a psychologist before entering politics.
"The common link between all these mass causalities has been mental
illness of the perpetrator."