Democrats, Obama turn up the heat on gun control

Washington — Connecticut Reps. John Larson and Jim Himes helped open a new front in the war over gun control Wednesday by joining a group of Democrats who hope to win approval of a ban on high-capacity magazines in the next few days.

Meanwhile, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead an inter-agency group required to come up with “concrete (gun control) proposals no later than January.”

Among the proposals Obama wants to see is a renewal of an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and a closing of a “loophole” that allows purchasers at guns shows to avoid background checks.

“I will be talking about this in the State of the Union address and talking to members of Congress until we get this done,” Obama said.

The push for new firearms regulations seems to be getting stronger every day since Fiday, when Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But winning congressional approval of new guns laws will be tough, especially since there are many National Rifle Association-backed members in the GOP-controlled House.

Larson and Himes are behind a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., that would limit the number of bullets in a gun magazine to 10.

The bill has languished for nearly two years. But McCarthy, whose husband was slain and son badly injured by a shooter on the Long Island Railroad, hopes a vote could be held on her restriction on high-capacity magazines Friday.

That’s not likely.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who decides which bills are considered on the House floor, has said there’s no hurry to debate gun legislation.

“When the vice president’s group makes specific proposals, we will take a look,” said Boehner press secretary Michael  Steel. “Right now the focus is, and should be, on the victims, their famiies and their community.”

Boehner’s attitude did not seem to faze sponsors of McCarthy’s bill, who chided Republican members for their lack of support for new gun laws.

“There’s no difference between us,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at Wednesday press conference on McCarthy’s legislation. “Democrats and Republicans would have pulled the clip out of Lanza’s hands. So why can’t we officially take the magazine away from shooters?”

She appointed an NRA member and avid hunter, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., to head a gun control task force.

McCarthy said “members of Congress need to have stiffer spines” and casting tough votes “is their job.”

At the press conference, Himes, D-4th District, noted that there is not a single GOP sponsor of McCarthy’s bill. He also accused Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, of “pernicious” argument because he said guns keep people safe.

“The notion that more guns in a nation awash with guns will make us safer … is not true,” Himes said. “That’s formulated in the fantasy of testosterone-filled individuals who have blood on their hands.”

Larson, D-1st District, said, “to do nothing is to be complicit.”

“Politics be damned here,” Larson said.

But politics will drive the debate, and approval of any gun control regulation will be difficult unless the NRA makes a concession.

The NRA plans to hold a press conference Friday to announce a new initiative it says will prevent other shootings like the one in Newtown. But it hasn’t divulged details of its plan.

Obama said there are a number of gun control bills introduced in Congress that could serve as the basis for a new, comprehensive policy.

“It’s not as if we have to start from scratch,” the president said.

Obama, who has always supported renewing a ban on assault weapons, was challenged by a reporter for failing to act on gun control sooner.

“I have not been on vacation,” the president shot back, citing a number of accomplishments in office.