Mark Glaze, a lobbyist for the mayors' group, said the White House is doing something right — whether it's by keeping Biden at the forefront or by Obama hanging back. "Whatever they are doing or not doing is working," Glaze said. He pointed to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month that found 61 percent of respondents believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, up from 56 percent the month before amid the more immediate wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 students and six workers.
That's encouraging news for the White House, where Obama acknowledged in the days after the shooting that public outrage over the deaths could fade. "I would hope that our memories aren't so short that what we saw in Newtown isn't lingering with us, that we don't remain passionate about it only a month later," Obama said at the time. He had given Biden a month's deadline to recommend steps to reduce gun violence. "I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," Obama said then.
Biden seemed like a natural pick to lead the White House effort since as a senator, he authored a crime bill that included an assault weapons ban that became law and lasted a decade. This time, both sides in the gun debate say an assault weapons ban is unlikely to get past Congress. They agree that the trafficking and background check provisions have better chances of becoming law.
Still, Obama pushed Congress in his State of the Union address to take all the measures up. "Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote," Obama said.
The remark could be seen as an acknowledgement that the measures may not pass — he was asking lawmakers to vote, not to pass everything. But White House officials have said Obama wants to increase pressure to stop opponents of gun control from keeping the legislation tied up without a vote, a common Senate practice that can bring effective death to legislation.
Forcing a vote on an assault weapons ban that isn't likely to pass also could give political cover to some moderate Democrats to vote for background checks and trafficking bills. Then those senators can tell gun owners back home that even though they supported background checks or anti-trafficking bills, they didn't support anything that would take away a single gun from law-abiding citizens.
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