Does Obama's Gun Control Plan Have a Chance?
"The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama's disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution's limits on his power," Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Mich., said Wednesday. "Congress must stand firm for the entirety of the Constitution - even if, but particularly so, when President Obama seeks to ignore his obligation to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' Taking away the rights and abilities of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves is yet another display of the Obama Administration's consolidation of power."
Added Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa: "This is the latest attempt by the President to legislate through emotion, but doing so does not lead to quality legislation. Reducing violence across our nation is a worthy goal, but it is imperative that the Constitutional rights of our citizens are not forgotten in the process."
Over the past month, Boehner has brought to the floor two bills that did not have the support of most Republicans - the "fiscal cliff" bill and the Sandy aid bill - and he presumably has little appetite for another bitter fight that would again put him on the opposite side of the majority of his caucus. As they boarded buses for a retreat on Wednesday, CBS News asked Republican House members about the prospects for passage of the president's proposal. Their response is not likely to encourage gun control advocates.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said of an assault weapons ban and a 10-round limit on magazines, "I think they would be discussed but I don't if they'd be passed." Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., told CBS News that "the president's just making a political move and it's a shame that he's using this situation for political reasons."
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., said he believes "there has to be something done," but he said the first priorities should be mental health issues and enforcing current laws. Reichert, a former Seattle police department sheriff, added, "the assault weapons ban, the magazine limitations does not solve the problem of gun crime."
A poll out Wednesday showed that six in 10 Americans support tougher gun laws. But conservative lawmakers in the House are far less concerned with national polls than they are with the views in their district, where straying from the National Rifle Association's steadfast opposition to new gun control laws could anger pro-gun voters and invite a serious primary challenge. The NRA "scores" votes and assigns lawmakers grades on their performance on gun issues, grades that many lawmakers believe have a not-insignificant impact on their reelection chances. That perception goes a long way toward explaining why Congress has not passed any sort of gun control legislation since 1994.
The NRA, which briefly went silent after the Newtown shooting, is now aggressively fighting the president's efforts, as illustrated by a controversial ad Wednesday calling Mr. Obama an "elitist hypocrite" because he is "skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools." The group is also reportedly using the full force of its lobbying muscle to fight the president's proposals, in part by arguing that the plan will mean lost jobs. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 252 members of Congress - 225 Republicans, 27 Democrats - received donations from the NRA in 2012, and the group has donated $20.9 million to federal candidates since 1990.