President Obama's proposals to curb gun violence are bound to play a contentious role in the slate of 2014 Senate races. Here is a look at how various Senate incumbents and potential challengers reacted to the White House's Wednesday announcement:
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska: I think they've got a long haul here. There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right. ... To be frank, I feel like it's going to be hard for any of these pieces of legislation to pass at this point."
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.: "While I appreciate the President's efforts to keep Americans safe, I believe the place to start is to enforce the laws on the books. That being said, I will continue to look for areas of common ground, including funding for law enforcement in schools, implementing tracking systems for the mentally ill and criminals, and addressing violence in the media. Most importantly, I will be talking with my constituents in Arkansas as I vote on these issues in the future."
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.: "President Obama's comprehensive plan to curb gun violence is exactly the type of multi-faceted approach we need to drive the debate on how to prevent future tragedies from occurring. ... We need comprehensive solutions that protect our children, prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns, and ensure responsible gun ownership consistent with the Second Amendment."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.:"Limiting magazine capacity and assault weapons, requiring background checks on all gun sales, cracking down on unlawful firearms trafficking, and focusing on mental health are the right first steps. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in two weeks on the issue of gun violence and I will chair a follow-up hearing on the constitutionality of reasonable gun laws under the Second Amendment. For all of the steps outlined today, real and meaningful changes to our nation's gun laws will only be successful if a majority of Americans and the majority of thoughtful gun owners and hunters to agree that there must be reasonable limits on gun ownership and weapons in our country."
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: "As a hunter, I know that the recreational use and collection of guns is important to many Iowans and as this debate advances, I will work to protect the legitimate rights of law-abiding American gun owners. But we cannot continue down a path of unlimited access to any arms, including those capable of shooting hundreds of bullets in a very short time. ... We can protect gun rights while continuing to support responsible legislation to reduce crime and make our schools and communities safer - goals that are not mutually exclusive."
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.: "My record of support for the Second Amendment is strong. In Louisiana and many places across the country, hunting, target shooting and gun collecting are time-honored sports and popular hobbies. That said, last month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., has become all too familiar. We must find a way to balance our Second Amendment rights with the challenges of mental illness, criminal behavior and the safety of our schools and communities. We must also enforce the rules already on the books. Even some of the most respected law enforcement leaders in our country are calling for commonsense reforms because of this terrible violence in our communities. ... I look forward to reviewing the proposals put forth by the administration and will give them my serious consideration as they are brought for debate in the Senate."
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.: "I strongly support the efforts President Obama outlined today to curb the gun violence that plagues our nation. I have long supported legislation to restore the ban on assault weapons. I also have supported closing the gun show loophole to strengthen the background checks that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers, and other dangerous individuals."
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in a release: "My heart is heavy over the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut and my thoughts are with those who are grieving. I've always supported the Second Amendment rights of Minnesotans to own firearms for collection, protection, and sport. But I also think we need to find a balance between those rights and the safety of our children and our communities. I co-sponsored legislation to ban large clips like those used in so many mass shootings. I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that. We need to make sure we don't have weapons out there that are really designed for the battlefield, and not for hunting. In the days and weeks ahead, I'm going to consult closely with all of the affected communities in the state - and that includes people like hunters, educators, parents, and other elected officials - about the best path forward."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in a release: "I appreciate the work President Obama and Vice President Biden have done to come up with this proposal that aims to achieve a goal we can all agree on: reducing senseless gun violence. Our country needs to come together in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting to do everything in our power to end the culture of violence that is leading to these types of heartbreaking tragedies. I thank the President for his leadership on this issue and look forward to considering his proposal as details come forward. At that time, I'll do what I've always done - consult with New Hampshire law enforcement officials and stakeholders to determine what is best for our state to ultimately make sure we implement a plan that works."
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.: "I’m not convinced that a sweeping, one-size-fits all model is the right approach for New Mexico, where many law-abiding citizens exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. What’s best for New York or California, may not serve sportsmen and responsible gun-owners in New Mexico well."
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.: "While respecting the rights of responsible gun owners, I am committed to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues toward a comprehensive approach that ensures our communities are safe. As I have said, I will look at any proposal with an open mind, including the President's proposals to make schools safer and grant law enforcement additional tools to prosecute gun crime."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.: "Recent tragedies have shaken all of us, and everyone wants to do their part to protect our children and communities from violence of all kinds. Enforcing the laws we already have on the books is good first step, and it’s clear more needs to be done to address access to mental health care,” Baucus said. “Before passing new laws, we need a thoughtful debate that respects responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Montana instead of one-size-fits all directives from Washington."
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., on Jan. 15: "We in South Dakota have far fewer problems with guns than they do in New York or New Jersey and it makes common sense to not have one size fits all."
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.: "President Obama has laid out a comprehensive, far-reaching proposal to address the issues of gun violence and public safety. The Sandy Hook shootings compel all of us to think anew about these issues, and I believe the status quo is not acceptable. Some of the President’s proposals are controversial, but there appears to be growing bipartisan consensus around improvements to the mental health system and broadening background checks. The proposals put forth by the President will get serious consideration and debate, and I look forward to being part of that debate."
Potential Democratic Senate Candidates
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.: "The problem is bigger, broader than guns. ... I expect and will push for a full debate, so that West Virginians have every opportunity to understand the proposals before the Congress and to make their views known."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.: "While I am certain that the president’s proposal is well-intentioned, it is Congress’ responsibility to make sure that Americans’ constitutional rights are protected."
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in a release: "I am disheartened by the White House Gun Violence task force's recommendations, which primarily focus on gun control and missed the opportunity to provide bold proposals that would address the root of these tragedies: mental illness. I will fight proposals in the Senate that threaten our 2nd Amendment rights and fail to take real action to curb a culture of gun violence in America."
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., in a relase: "We all share the same goal of reducing gun violence and I will carefully review any legislation before Congress, but placing a heavier burden on responsible gun owners will do little to prevent troubled individuals from carrying out violent acts. The Second Amendment is very clear and so is my commitment to protecting the Constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms."
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in a release: "While we mourn with those who have lost loved ones, in no way should the actions of those few who act illegally impact the constitutional rights of the many. I will continue to strongly oppose any effort to undermine the Second Amendment and an individual citizen's right to keep and bear arms. ... Most of the planned executive orders are common sense changes that are within the President's current powers to implement. ... Where I do disagree with the President is on his recommendations for laws Congress should pass. We know from experience that an assault weapons ban will have no meaningful effect on gun violence, as many of the changes that are implemented by a such a ban are cosmetic in nature."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: "The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is heartbreaking and beyond words. However, the gun control plans brought forward by President Obama fail to address the real issues and I’m confident there will be bipartisan opposition to his proposal."
Potential Republican Senate Candidates
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa: "If there are constitutional steps that can be taken to avert future tragedies like Sandy Hook, Congress needs to consider them. ... This is the latest attempt by the president to legislate through emotion, but doing so does not lead to quality legislation. [I]t is imperative that the Constitutional rights of our citizens are not forgotten in the process. The right of the people to defend themselves against tyranny is the reason for the Second Amendment. We cannot disarm all law abiding Americans in an attempt to preempt a deranged individual."
Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa: "The president has now put forth his proposals, and members of Congress will continue to develop theirs. ... I continue to believe that we must ensure any Congressional or executive action pertaining to firearm regulations should not erode the rights we are guaranteed in our Constitution."
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.: "If the goal of these proposals is to prevent horrific assaults such as Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Sandy Hook, we must first recognize that the crimes at Virginia Tech and Tucson did not involve “assault weapons”. The Sandy Hook weapons were purchased by a law abiding citizen who would have passed a background check. The common thread in these crimes was untreated mental illness. Funding for mental illness is often misused and ineffective. If we are serious, this should be our focus. Although we are still awaiting details on the President’s proposals, if we are truly to bring peace of mind to parents dropping off children at elementary school, we should focus on the true problem.”
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.: "[W]hen discussing gun violence, we need to look at all aspects including mental illness and the culture of violence that is so prevalent in our television shows and video games. I have heard from hundreds of South Dakotans worried about how potential gun control legislation could impact them. I plan to carefully review proposals coming from the president and work to ensure the constitutional right of law-abiding gun owners is not threatened."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.: "West Virginians want us to work together to find common ground solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States—a goal we all share. That’s why I am disappointed that President Obama issued an executive order today instead of showing willingness to work with Congress and State Leaders to address this serious issue. ... I will continue to consider ideas and proposals that address this issue in an inclusive manner, from the level of violence in the media to how we address mental illness in this country to gun laws."