President Obama has asked Vice President Joe Biden to head up a task force on gun violence. Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing their own answers to the mass shooting at Newtown, Conn.
Republicans have been largely silent on the issue, but at least one California Democrat thinks that can change as soon as Friday.
There's a dark mood on Capitol Hill. The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, combined with the death of Hawaii’s Senator, Daniel Inouye, plus the continuing battle over the fiscal cliff has put a pall over everything.
While waiting for the President and Speaker John Boehner to come up with a deal they can vote on, Democratic members of Congress have been busy crafting and promoting legislation to address an issue they think they can affect: The continuing gun violence evidenced at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein kicked off the discussion about gun violence Sunday, when she said she will reintroduce an assault weapons ban. An earlier ban, also authored by Feinstein, expired in 2004.
Other Democratic lawmakers are highlighting proposals that have already been introduced. They include restrictions on high capacity bullet clips (Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey), closing a loophole that would require criminal background checks for those purchasing guns at gun shows (Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York), boosting mental health services (Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative McCarthy, both of New York), and studying the link between violent video games and violent acts by children (Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Wednesday appointed California Congressman Mike Thompson to head up a Democratic House task force to prioritize legislative proposals.
No major gun control legislation made it out of committee in the current Congress.
But Democratic California Senator Barbara Boxer said that could change and change fast.
"I think a lot of it depends on what the NRA says on Friday," she said.
The National Rifle Association plans a Friday news conference when the NRA said it will "offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
Boxer said the NRA has tremendous influence on Capitol Hill.
"And if they say let’s get this done, let’s ban these high capacity clips, and let’s do it tomorrow, I think we’d have 60 votes to get it done and I think we could pass it," said Boxer.
Senator Boxer supports the assault weapons ban, taking clips off the street, having law enforcement review conceal and carry permits, closing the gun show loophole, and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. She has proposed her own bill to reimburse governors who want to use National Guard troops to make schools safer.
Republicans have largely been silent on the issue.
Cathy McMorris Rogers from Washington, who heads the GOP Conference, said Congress has to “be careful” about new gun laws and make sure we’re enforcing those already on the books.
The comment is similar to one made by Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy this summer after the Aurora movie theater shooting. The House Majority Whip said Congress had to “know all the facts instead of just moving legislation.” McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment on the current spate of Democratic proposals.
One GOP lawmaker has shared his thoughts on guns since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert suggested on Fox News Sunday that the way to prevent future Newtowns is to increase the number of guns rather than limiting access. If the principal at Sandy Hook had been armed when Adam Lanza began his shooting rampage, Gohmert said she “takes him out” before he could kill children.
UPDATE: Late Wednesday, outgoing Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts became the first GOP Senator to endorse a renewal of the assault weapons ban.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect name for the elementary school where Friday's mass shooting took place.