“We have learned from the [original] bill,” Feinstein said.
Lukewarm Democratic Support
The legislation is seen as the toughest of the president’s gun control measures for proponents to try to pass in a politically divided Congress, and there were immediate signs Thursday of those challenges.
Hours after Feinstein and McCarthy unveiled the proposal, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued a statement saying he looks “forward to helping lead the fight to defeat this bill.”
“Washington politicians shouldn’t be taking advantage of recent tragedy to try to push an aggressive gun control agenda,” Cruz said. “This proposal would have done nothing to prevent the terrible murders in Newtown, but it would limit the constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens.”
Cruz’s comments came a day after Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said during an event at the Ripon Society, a Republican think tank, that an assault weapons ban would not be an effective response to gun violence and would “give people a false sense of security.”
Democrats from gun-friendly states also took a cautious approach Thursday, which suggests that the measure will have enough problems finding sufficient votes in the Senate, let alone in the House.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has a top rating from the NRA and faces re-election in 2014, added: “I’m going to listen to Montanans and make my decision.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who did not attend Thursday’s news conference, has shown only tepid support for the assault weapons proposal. He told a Nevada television station Jan. 11 that he sees little chance of the measure becoming law due to likely opposition in the House. Reid may choose not to force some of his members into a difficult vote if the legislation stands no chance of passing the House.
The NRA has vowed to fight Obama’s gun initiatives forcefully, and it released a survey Thursday refuting assertions by Democrats that many NRA members would support steps such as an assault weapons ban.
The survey the group issued found that 89 percent of NRA members “oppose banning semi-automatic firearms,” which it said are wrongly characterized as “assault rifles.”
Several speakers at Feinstein’s news conference acknowledged that a bruising lobbying battle with the NRA is likely, but they expressed confidence that they could outmaneuver pro-gun rights advocates by appealing directly to Americans who have seen too many mass shootings.
“I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby,” said the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral.
Democratic supporters of the legislation cast themselves as supporters of the Second Amendment and said they are not seeking to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, particularly hunters and sportsmen.
Feinstein’s bill specifically allows 2,258 “legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns” as well as “any gun manually operated by bolt, pump, lever or slide action,” according to background information provided by her office. Guns carried by government officials and law enforcement also would be exempt from the ban.
“None of us want to take away the hunting rifle that your Uncle Tommy gave you when you were 14 years old,” Schumer said.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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