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“I think there’s also strength in dealing with mental-health records. I think that that is an emerging bipartisan belief. I’d say next in line would be these clips and cartridges and drums as to whether there should be some limitation there,” Durbin said Thursday afternoon before lunch. “I support the assault weapon ban. I think right now, it is probably the toughest part of this conversation.”
Durbin, along with the No. 3 Senate Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, spoke at the news conference last week where Feinstein introduced her assault weapon ban.
But both men are also actively engaged in the negotiations on immigration, and it’s unclear who might take the lead in the Democrats’ leadership team in wrangling votes for any package. At the moment, Reid is leaving the responsibility for the bill to Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s Judiciary Committee. At a news conference before his caucus’s meeting with Biden, Reid said he believed the Judiciary Committee could do both bills through regular order — a tall task given that the biggest bills have rarely gone through committees in recent years, with 2010’s Wall Street overhaul legislation being a notable exception.
Some Democratic sources outside leadership have expressed skepticism that leadership has the will to do a serious gun control package. Reid himself has received contributions from the NRA and voted against 1994’s assault weapons ban, drafted in part by then-Sen. Biden. But if any one member of the administration can push senators to act, it seems Biden is the person to do it. If his comments leaving the meeting Thursday are any indication, he might be the most committed person in Washington to forcing an uneasy Democratic Conference to coalesce around reform.
“There are things that we can do — demonstrably can do — that have virtually zero impact on your Second Amendment right to own a weapon for both self-defense and recreation, that can save some lives. And the point I was making in there, and I make everywhere, this is not a difficult equation,” Biden said. “If I can prove that there is no constitutional impact on your right to bear arms and the action I’m suggesting can, in fact, demonstrably show some people could be saved, it would seem to me a no-brainer.”