On Thursday President Barack Obama held another press conference to push his gun control agenda in hopes of garnering public support for his plan to curb gun violence in the United States. The topic has been center stage since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, but Congress has yet to enact any real reforms.
Gun control has long been cause for politicians in Washington to tread lightly, especially those vulnerable in coming elections. Democrats in red states are hesitant to back legislation that may lead to their ouster in 2014, as are Republicans wary of primary challenges from the right. But public outcry following the death of 26 victims in Newtown, Conn. led many to believe that the time had finally come for stricter gun laws.
"Tears aren't enough, expressions of sympathy aren't enough, speeches aren't enough. We've cried enough, we've known enough heartbreak," Obama said Thursday. "What we are proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anybody's gun rights. It's something that if we are serious we will do. Now's the time to turn that heartbreak into something real."
Following Sandy Hook, Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden head of a task force charged with formulating gun control proposals. This resulted in calls for expanded background checks, an assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition ban, and providing funding for mental health programs.
On the Congressional side, the Senate will take up a gun control bill in April after returning from Easter recess. It includes expanded background check rules, but noticeably absent is the assault weapons ban championed by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., acknowledged that the entire bill is doubtful to pass with that provision included, but Feinstein hopes to propose the assault weapons measure as an amendment.
But many Republicans are deeply critical of measures they say restrict Second Amendment rights and are unlikely to support the bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is writing a Republican alternative, and he doesn't support expanded background checks. He does, however, endorse stricter punishment for so-called "straw purchases" and stricter measures for safety in schools. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., couldn't say whether or not he'd back Grassley's legislation:
From his description of what he's trying to put together … it might be something I can support. But I can't go beyond that. I'm not likely to support what Harry is bringing up, but there may be an alternative I can.
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