The action now moves from the campaign trail to negotiations at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
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.
Of 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 Republicans.
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.
McCarthy 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."
Among Republicans in the Senate, only Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she would support renewing the assault weapons ban, according to National Journal.
In 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.
Others, 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 elaborated.
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.
Rep. 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."