"We support the folks who've helped us in the past, and we remind them that we're also interested in what they do today and tomorrow," Keene said. "I'm convinced that once this thing gets debated the folks who've been with us in the past are probably going to be with us in the future."
Obama's call for an assault weapons ban is a particularly heavy lift, but backers are more optimistic about increased background checks, which were favored by 84 percent in an Associated Press-GfK poll this week.
Supporters hope those kinds of poll numbers will help move lawmakers to buck history and the NRA and vote in favor of gun-control bills.
"We definitely have our work cut out for us. The math's not with us right now in terms of the votes," said Andy Pelosi, president of Gun Free Kids. "It's going to be difficult, but I am optimistic. I think the tone in the country is much, much different, and you can't underestimate that."
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
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