Directives for gun control legislation are coming from the White House, but Congress will ultimately decide whether universal background checks and an assault weapons ban become law.
With a Republican-led House of Representatives and a handful of Senate Democrats up for re-election in red states in 2014, the appetite for gun control could be weaker than Vice President Joe Biden, who lead the president's task force, as well as President Barack Obama himself, are hoping.
Senate Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, all face uphill reelection bids in 2014 in pro-gun states. They have been reluctant to discuss new gun-control legislation, instead focusing on the need to enact more protections for the mentally ill.
"I have no illusions for what we are up against," Biden said at the press conference Wednesday when his task force presented its recommendations.
Biden's group recommended closing the gun show loophole, which allows unlicensed firearm dealers to sell guns to people without background checks, reinstating the assault weapons ban and restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines over 10 rounds.
But it remains to be seen even if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will spend political capital or time on gun legislation that may never see the light of day on the House floor.
"Let's be realistic," Reid said in an interview with PBS' Nevada Week in Review. "In the Senate, we're going to do what we think can get through the House and I'm not going to go through a bunch of these gyrations just to say we've done something. If we're really legislators, the purpose of it is to pass legislation."
A House GOP aide said leaders in the party were mulling over Biden's recommendations, but that they would take their cues from Reid.
"We're willing to look at the recommendations made by the Biden group. However, based on Leader Reid's recent comments it seems unlikely that Senate Democrats will move sweeping changes to current law off the floor," the aide said.
But for some the tide is changing. Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia has signaled more flexibility on adopting new gun-control legislation immediately following the Sandy Hook shooting.
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, Warner, who has an A rating from the NRA, said "the status quo is not acceptable."
The one area where common ground is emerging is on Obama's calls for "universal background checks."
Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia told a town hall audience last week that he was thinking about supporting legislation that strengthens background checks.
The last time an assault weapons ban passed in 1994, Democrats held the Senate, the House and the White House. And even then, the bill passed by only two votes in the House. The legislation was also part of a broader anti-crime bill. And the assault weapons ban, which prohibited the sale of many types of semi-automatic guns and banned high-capacity magazines over 10 rounds, grandfathered in hundreds of semi-automatic weapons.
But that time around, the political ramifications were disastrous for Democrats.
Two months after the assault weapons ban passed many of the Democrats who voted for the ban lost their seats, giving Republicans control of the House and the Senate.
Today, a handful of Republicans in the House are already sounding the alarm on Obama's announcement.
Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas said he would lead an effort to impeach the president for using 23 executive orders to strengthen new gun control laws.
"The White House's recent announcement they will use executive orders and executive actions to infringe on our constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms is an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic," Stockman said in a statement. "I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment."