Why Some Democrats Are Waging a Losing Battle On Gun Control
A group of Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey, New York and Colorado on Tuesday afternoon called for a vote on banning high-capacity magazines, used by the Colorado shooter to gun down more than 70 people in a movie theater. But, acknowledging that there is little political incentive at the moment Sen. Frank Lautenberg said "there is almost a resignation to the futility of our mission, and people don't want to work with non-possible issues. We feel differently about it," he said.
Given the political giant that is the National Rifle Association, getting other lawmakers on board with actually pushing policy ahead represents a massive uphill battle.
"The NRA raises large amounts of money, and all they're trying to do is intimidate members of Congress, legislators across this country," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a staunch gun control advocate. "I don't know when the American people will raise their voices" and push their legislators to reduce gun violence.
President Barack Obama visited families of the victims after the shooting, but has avoided talk of gun control.
"I know the president is very specific in what he did, to visit with the families and to be there and to show that he is with those families, and whether other words might have applied, is entirely up to him. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to mount the effort," Lautenberg said.
Some politicians are balking at the idea of a national debate, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who called such talk "political grandstanding" during a time of tragedy.
But McCarthy countered that notion, offering impassioned remarks during Tuesday's press conference. She came to Congress in 1996 on a gun control platform. Her husband was killed and her son severely injured by a mass murderer who opened fire on a Long Island Commuter Train in 1993.
"When I think of the families of those waiting in the hospital, they are only beginning this journey and yet here we are silent," she said.
Such gun control talk, rather than pushing other lawmakers to action, may be more useful in pushing Americans to start a national dialogue on gun control. Sen. Robert Menendez said many Americans "in the midst of their daily challenges may not have been thinking of gun violence, but I think would side with us in overwhelming respect" if such a dialogue picks up steam.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deflected gun control questions from reporters on Tuesday saying, "What can I do? What can I even get passed in the Senate? I mean, really?" And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that stricter gun control laws don't appear to reduce gun violence.
By-and-large, many Democrats gave up on gun control in 2000, seeing it as loosing issue in rural areas needed to win elections. And Congress has generally moved away from strict gun control since the assault weapons ban expired.
But perhaps this recent mass shooting could turn the tide, given that many Americans support some restrictions. And earlier in the day, House Democrats discussed the Colorado shootings, with some described as soon pushing for action on gun control legislation.
McCarthy said she at least wants to bring up a ban on high-capacity magazines, and she knows of a number of Republicans who would vote with her on the issue.
Dan Friedman contributed.