Washington — President Obama received the recommendations of a Cabinet-level panel on gun violence Monday, one month after the Newtown tragedy, as the pace of efforts by Democrats on gun control picked up.
Also Monday, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, met with Vice President Joe Biden, head of the panel, as part of a 12-member House Democratic task force on gun violence.
“There was a shared belief that Sandy Hook has been an enormous wake-up call,” said Esty of the White House meeting with Biden.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also attended the meeting.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced a bill Monday that would create a $2,000 tax credit for assault weapon owners who turn in their firearms to the state police.
Obama said the Biden panel’s initial proposals include a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines, as well as expanded background checks.
The Biden panel also recommended tougher prosecutions under existing gun laws, the collection of more information about gun violence, improved databases for background checks and the tracking of guns that fall into criminal hands, measures that could be accomplished through the president’s executive authority.
Obama said he plans to review the recommendations and give the public a final plan later this week.
But many of the measures in that plan that require congressional action may not survive.
In his Monday news conference, Obama said the assault weapons ban, and other gun measures, may not pass Congress.
“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said. “But what’s uppermost in my mind is making sure I’m honest with the American people and Congress about what I think will work.”
DeLauro said the shooting deaths of 20 young children and six staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School a month ago has increased support for an assault weapons ban.
“I think there is a consensus around that issue as a result of Newtown,” she said. “There is no reason on earth, other than to kill as many people as possible in a very short period of time, that anyone needs a gun designed for military purposes.”
Esty, who had to cancel plans to attend events in Newtown Monday so she could meet with Biden, said there was consensus on a ban on high capacity magazines in that meeting. But as far as an assault weapons ban, Esty said, “It’s less clear that would have the votes to pass.”
1994 crime bill
There was a brutal political fight over a ban on assault weapons in the 1994 crime bill. Former President Clinton had to cajole and arm-twist conservative Democrats to vote for it. Some, including the crime bill’s House sponsor, former Rep. Jack Brooks of Texas, said they lost their seats because they voted for a bill that included an assault weapons ban.
Clinton also had to accept a compromise: The assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines would “sunset,” or expire, after 10 years. Since its expiration in 2004, several attempts to re-establish the ban have failed in Congress.
National Rifle Association President David Keene said there’s even less support for the ban in the current Congress. The House is controlled by Republicans, who tend to be gun rights advocates.
Yet gun-control advocates remain upbeat — and continue to introduce gun-related proposals.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has sponsored a bill that would require background checks of all purchasers of ammunition, and he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will soon introduce legislation that would ban assault weapons.
DeLauro said she is confident she will win support for her proposal to establish a new tax credit for those who turn in their assault weapons. She said the idea for her bill came from a Connecticut veteran who owns an assault rifle.
As vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Steering Committee, DeLauro will hold a hearing Wednesday on gun violence with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Democratic gun-control panel that includes Esty. Janet Robinson, who is superintendent of schools in Newtown, will be among the witnesses at that hearing, whose purpose is to come up with even more proposals intended to curb gun violence.
Some Republicans may support ban
While there’s a flurry of activity by Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill, few Republicans say they would favor new restrictions on gun ownership.
The assault weapons ban is expected to be strongly opposed by the GOP. Many Republicans receive support from the NRA, which, in turn, is receiving increasing support from gun makers and the sales of guns. The NRA’s “Round-Up Program,” for instance, allows participating gun retailers to “round up” gun purchases to the nearest dollar and send the difference to the NRA.
But some see cracks in the GOP’s gun-rights stance.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., has an “A” rating from the NRA. But at a town hall meeting last weekend, the six-term Gingrey said he is open to considering a ban on high-capacity magazine clips.
“Do you really need to be standing there shooting at a silhouette a shot a second or even quicker with that kind of weapon? For what purpose?” Gingrey asked. “I would be willing to listen to the possibility of (limiting ) the capacity of a magazine.”