If, in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, gun-control proponents hoped to push Democrats into action, the lobbying efforts succeeded. After years in which Democratic leaders didn’t even want to hear the word “gun,” we’re seeing a flurry of activity from the White House and congressional Dems. Even Democrats who’ve traditionally opposed new gun laws – and have enjoyed NRA support – are rethinking old assumptions.
But if gun-control advocates believe leaning on President Obama is the key to policy progress, they may want to reconsider their lobbying strategy, and apply pressure elsewhere.
The top Republican with jurisdiction over firearms regulations in the 113th Congress has shut down talk of gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a sign that the House will be the largest obstacle to overhauling federal gun laws.
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he does not favor tightening controls on firearms, such as banning assault weapons or high-capacity clips, after 27 people, including 20 children, were killed by a shooter in Newtown last week.
“We’re going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support,” he said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), meanwhile, added this week that firearm ownership “is an important right, and it is in the Constitution. These laws are not going to change in the near future.”
Even now, in the wake of a heartbreaking massacre, with public opinion clearly siding with new limits, the reflexive answer from many Republicans hasn’t changed: “No.”
I’m not convinced that it’s a lost cause, and that proponents of new restrictions should give up before their offensive even begins in earnest. Indeed, as Rachel noted on the show the other day, there have been times in which gun legislation has defied the odds and overcome seemingly intractable opposition.
But right now, it would appear the top question on reformers’ minds should be, “How can we get 218 votes in the House?”