Since President Obama unveiled his gun control proposals last month, much of the debate has focused on reinstating the assault weapons ban, and specifically, how it’s pretty unlikely that the bill introduced by Dianne Feinstein and other Democrats in Congress will pass. Now an aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid tells the Wall Street Journal that Democratic leaders in the Senate are planning to introduce a more realistic bill. The new legislation would limit magazine sizes, expand background checks to include all sales at gun shows and private transactions, do more to keep guns from the mentally ill, and cut down on sales in states with weaker gun laws to buyers in states with stricter laws. Most of President Obama’s proposals would be covered in the bill, with the exception of the controversial assault weapons ban.
The Reid aide said the lawmakers hope to get the bill to the Senate floor within the next month, and the legislation could be amended to add provisions such as a ban on certain assault weapons. However, if the goal is to pass those gun control measures that do have broad support, that would probably be counterproductive. Whatever the Senate passes would have to get past House Republicans, and even some Senate Democrats don’t support an assault weapons ban — including Reid.
On Sunday’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Reid said “Everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks,” but he was non-committal on other gun control measures. He added that he plans to “take a look” at the assault weapons ban introduced in Congress last month, but noted, “I didn’t vote for the assault weapons last time because it … didn’t make sense.”
Of course, even without the assault weapons ban, lawmakers still have plenty to argue about when it comes to gun control. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold two more hearings on the issue, and the NRA has only grown more rigid since the last major gun control showdown. An investigation by Forbes into the debate found that “the NRA and the pro-gun rights voices are winning the influence battle and will continue to be strong and more influential if the pro gun control voice remains fragmented,” with the message split between President Obama and various other interest groups.
While the united front of gun rights advocates is a formidable opponent, the president said last week that he has “no doubt” that legislation will be passed before the end of the year. Today, Obama will appear in Minneapolis to spread the word on his proposals, pitching local leaders on his “comprehensive set of commonsense ideas to reduce gun violence.”
But in a testament to just how complicated the issue has become, Fox News’s Chris Wallace criticized NRA head Wayne LaPierre on Sunday, while Reid came to his defense. “I’ve been supported by the NRA on occasion,” said Reid, alluding to his interesting history with the NRA. “I know Wayne LaPierre, he’s always been extremely pleasant to me. We have a good relationship. So I am not here to demean the organization.”
This post has been updated throughout.