Presidential Hopefuls Plant Flags on Gun Control

Democrats come out strong for change, Republicans tread more cautiously.

Democratic Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, left, and Martin O'Malley of Maryland, right, are pushing for new gun control laws.
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There's no doubt that potential 2016 presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are weighing the politics of gun reform legislation. For Democrats, it offers a chance to build their bona fides with their base during a time when support for such legislation could be at an all-time high. For Republicans, it's a trickier proposition. Inevitably, there will be a crowded primary field that will include some candidates who outright oppose any sort of gun ban or background check expansion. But there may be value in seeming willing to compromise or—if the public agrees—some level of 'common sense' to endorsing limited reforms, particularly if the disturbing trend of violence continues in the absence of action.

Democrats

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo, in making gun reform a strong part of his recent State of the State address, quickly took the lead at the state level and has pressed lawmakers to act. A recently passed measure further restricts access to so-called 'assault weapons,' restricts magazines from a maximum of 10 bullets to seven, forces stores that sell bullets to register with the state, and requires therapists to report patients to the state if they are believed to have made "credible" threats of gun violence, among other provisions. A Republican state senator called out Cuomo's political ambitions Monday during debate on the bill.

[RELATED: NY Passes First U.S. Gun Law Since Massacre]

"We haven't saved any lives tonight, except one: the political life of a governor who wants to be president," said State Sen. Greg Ball, according to The Associated Press.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

O'Malley said Monday he would present lawmakers with a gun reform package that would require people to submit their fingerprints to state police in order to buy guns, in addition to a background check and a mandatory gun safety course, with an exception for those buying shotguns or hunting rifles. Assault weapons would also be banned, and ammunition magazines limited to 10 bullets.

"It makes absolutely no sense when you look at the level of carnage on our streets from guns to blame every factor but guns," O'Malley said during a press event ahead of a Johns Hopkins University gun policy summit. "If we are to have a comprehensive approach, then let us be comprehensive."

Vice President Joe Biden

Biden was given the task by President Barack Obama to coordinate administration efforts on gun and mental health reforms that would seek to minimize future gun violence. The vice president held a series of talks with gun manufacturers, sellers, sporting groups, anti-gun advocates, the entertainment industry and mental health providers. He is expected to recommend the president reinstate the lapsed assault weapons ban, universal background checks and propose magazine bullet limits. His high-profile role in the debate fuels speculation he has designs on replacing his boss.

Republicans

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Hailing from a largely urban state, Christie may find some wider political latitude than other Republicans on the guns issue. In a recent interview with NBC's Today Show, Christie said he's willing to "have a conversation" about a federal assault weapons ban, but only if other factors—such as video game violence and mental health reforms—are part of the legislation.

[OPINION: Christie Won't Be the 2016 GOP Nominee]

"What about the violence in our video games? The fact is we need to have a conversation about all of these things," Christie told Matt Lauer. "The fact is, these are complicated issues and my point is, I'm willing to have that conversation. That's a lot more than what other people are willing to say."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio, who has maintained popularity with conservatives and tea party groups since his 2010 election, told local reporters Tuesday the issue isn't gun control, it's gun violence.

"We have increased violence in our society," he said, according to a report by Florida radio station WOKV.

"If there are reasonable things that we can do that protect the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we should explore those things," he said. "But to somehow undermine the ability of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right in exchange for things that won't work, I mean that's not something I'll support."