"This battle has been a very lonely battle for many, many years," McCarthy said. While she acknowledged she has been meeting with NRA officials in recent weeks in an effort to find common ground, she said she can't "trust them to be there for the tough votes."
Democratic lawmakers tempered their tone, careful not to demonize gun owners. McCarthy emphasized the difference between NRA members who are duck hunters and sports shooters and those who have a desire to kill. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois urged law-abiding gun owners to support the assault weapons ban.
"We need responsible hunters and sportsmen," Durbin says. "They comply with every aspect of the laws...We need them to step up. We need their voices to be part of this conversation."
Democratic lawmakers said Congress had squandered opportunities to renew an assault weapons ban after Virginia Tech, after Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was shot, after James Holmes killed 12 at a midnight showing of Batman. They promised this moment would be different.
"It took 20 children and six others showing extraordinary courage," says Durbin. "At the end of the day there were 20 parents standing alone. That is what it took."
So far lawmakers have introduced 10 bills in the 113th Congress to curb gun violence, but no matter the approach, advocates of gun control expect a battle.
"Make no mistake it will be a hard fight ahead," says Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.