President Barack Obama urged Americans to stand up for gun reform, as key legislation moves closer to consideration in Congress. Meanwhile, the opponents of gun legislation have ratcheted up their efforts as well.
Groups opposed to gun reform include the NRA and gun manufacturers. On Monday, as the president was speaking to a Connecticut audience that included bereaved Newtown families, NRA President David Keene was visiting Penn United Technologies, a firearms manufacturing firm in Pennsylvania.
“Penn United’s employees were honored to host the NRA’s tour of their facilities and display their manufacturing capabilities,” reads a press release from the firm. “Fifteen percent of Penn United’s employee owners are members of the NRA.”
Within weeks of the Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the National Rifle Association coined the phrase “Stand and Fight” on its website, in its own videos, and on Twitter. Thousands of gun rights supporters on Twitter have used the hashtag #StandAndFight to express the gun lobby’s efforts to resist reform in the tragedy’s wake.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder will continue the administration’s call for Americans to push Congress to act. Each cabinet official will speak at the White House, flanked by law enforcement officials from around the nation, in favor of “common-sense” measures to reduce gun violence.
In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating over a bill that would require background checks for most private gun sales, which both law enforcement and gun reform groups maintain is the way that many firearms end up in the hands of criminals and others legally barred from buying them (including those legally deemed to be mentally ill). One issue is whether the legislation that reaches the floor will be strong enough to make a difference. “We support a background check bill that expands the system, and that is enforceable,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told msnbc.
A bill imposing stiffer penalties for gun trafficking is also under consideration, although it seems to have less chance of success. A number of law enforcement groups back the White House in supporting these and other pieces of gun control legislation. “We support it both here in Connecticut and nationally,” said Chief Anthony J. Salvatore of the Cromwell, Connecticut, police department who is also the legislative co-chair of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. “To make sure that the person you are selling [guns] to is permitted to have that kind of weapon.”
Another bill pending in the Senate is a proposed ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But it has the least chance of success, as gun rights groups led by the NRA strongly oppose it. Some national law enforcement groups also seem to oppose it.
“A ban on assault weapons alone will not address the issues of gun violence we are facing in our country today,” wrote the president of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Richard W. Stanek, to Vice President Biden in January. He went on to echo some of the same concerns expressed by National Rifle Association leaders, focusing on “an epidemic of untreated mental illness” and a “culture of violence on the internet, on television, in movies and especially violent videogames.”
Members of the board of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association did not respond to requests by msnbc.com for comment.
The White House may be getting some traction with their strong push for Congressional action. “What we are hoping to see in Congress is that every person who has been affected, or who is aware of this issue, calls their legislator and tells them what they think,” said Dan O’Donnell, a Newtown resident and member of the recently formed Newtown Action Alliance.