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White House Vows Action on Gun Control; Details Scarce

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Protesters want action on gun control, and some in Congress have echoed that sentiment, although policy specifics are hard to come by in the halls of the Capitol.

Manchin famously used a rifle to shoot a copy of the president’s cap-and-trade bill in one of his campaign ads. He’s an avid sportsman and represents exactly the kind of Democrat that gun control advocates need to win over to have a prayer of passing any legislation through Congress.

Moderate Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also spoke out on the issue, calling the Newtown massacre a “game changer.” And Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., criticized himself for not speaking out against gun violence in the past.

Rep. Mike Quigley said he’s been in the House for four years without seeing a single hearing on gun issues. But the Illinois Democrat said he doesn’t fault the president for not pushing the issue.

“I don’t blame him. I know exactly what happened to Clinton after this in the mid-term elections. The reality is we need him to be a president for a second term, and the opposition to this maybe has finally turned,” he said.

Predictably, Reid’s tack was as restrained as the president’s. He echoed the idea that “every idea must be on the table,” but stopped shy of specifics Monday.

“We need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens,” he said.

The majority leader and other senators, including Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., promised a deeper look into gun violence, including hearings.

“I believe part of that healing process will require Congress to examine what can be done to prevent more tragedies like the ones in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Portland, Ore.,” Reid said.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., laid out the most detailed agenda in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune — calling for an assault weapons ban, a ban on clips holding more than 10 bullets and limits on gun purchases. All are ideas that have been repeatedly offered and summarily ignored by Congress in recent years.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, generally kept their distance from the idea of legislative action. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., kept his remarks squarely focused on condolences for the victims.

In recent decades, the NRA has not only won races but also dominated the messaging war.

On the campaign trail, Democrats and Republicans alike frequently referred to themselves as defenders of the Second Amendment. Republicans squabbled over who was more “pro-gun” in their primaries. Blue Dog Democratic Rep. John Barrow brandished his family’s “little Smith & Wesson” in a 30-second spot for his conservative Georgia district. He won.

Pro-gun-control positions mostly crop up in inner city House districts — and even there, candidates don’t bring it up often.

Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. served as an exception last March, when he used the issue in a television advertisement criticizing his opponent, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, a former NRA endorsement recipient, in the Democratic primary in the 2nd District on Chicago’s south side. It’s a region that’s been ravaged by gun violence.

And on Capitol Hill, Democrats have been so divided on guns that proposals for gun amendments on unrelated legislation are sometimes enough to sink them outright. Manchin, however, expressed hope that common ground could be found between the NRA and gun control advocates.

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