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Moderate Dems Consider Gun Control

Is the tide turning on gun control up on the Hill?

Maybe so, what with Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who is touting an A rating from the National Rifle Association, calling for an assault-weapons ban.

Indeed, Democrats who are cozy with the NRA are the players to watch as we check Congress's appetite to tackle gun control. The Alley caught up with one on Monday, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, who also touts an A rating from the NRA.

Rahall said he would be willing to consider a ban on high-capacity ammunition or semiautomatic weapons, as long as other issues such as gaps in mental-health services, violence in pop culture, and prayer in schools were also addressed.

"I don’t understand why you need those magazines for hunting purposes, and I think most responsible, law-abiding citizens who want to protect their right to own guns would agree that that doesn’t make much sense, to be able to get those as freely in a period as you can get them today," he said. "But that’s not going to solve the problem alone. I think we need to look at all the other issues I've mentioned as well."

Rahall advocated having "everybody at the table," including the NRA. "I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, so I would certainly want to do that," he said. "But obviously we woke up Saturday morning to a different nation than we were 24 hours earlier.”

But proponents of stricter gun control aren't entirely convinced that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a game-changer. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a vocal gun-control advocate whose 20-year-old nephew was shot and killed in 2011, said: "I’m not sure that the tide has changed, but if it does not change with this, it will probably never change."

"It’s too early to tell. I want to be optimistic, I really want to believe that we will do something about this," Cummings told The Alley, "but I just think about the forces that are against gun control, and they are mighty."

So far those forces have largely remained dormant, particularly the NRA, which has stayed silent since the shooting. In the meantime, lawmakers are putting out statements of personal grief; the House took up a resolution on Monday condemning the attacks; and Capitol flags have been lowered to honor the victims.

But it may be too soon to know how the political dust will settle inside the U.S. Capitol once enough time has passed and those flags are again at the top of their poles.

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