Democrats in the House are calling for Republicans to put gun control on the national agenda in the new year. They want to begin with the immediate passage of legislation that would ban ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds.
The legislation (H.R.308), sponsored by Democratic Reps. Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado, has been stalled in a Judiciary subcommittee since January 2011. But Democrats said the fatal shooting of 20 young children in Connecticut last week pointed to the need for immediate action on the bill.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at a news conference that Democrats and Republicans alike would have wanted to physically take the clip away from the gunman during the Connecticut shooting.
“All of us would have risked our lives, Democrats and Republicans alike,” Pelosi said. “Why wouldn’t we officially take that magazine out of the hands of a shooter? That’s exactly what this legislation would do.”
Rep. McCarthy said a previous ban on such magazines, contained in the expired 1994 assault weapons ban, was effective.
“We know that with the extinction of those large magazines, we did not see the kind of killings that we have been seeing in recent years,” she said, adding that she is “asking my Republican friends to work with us.” McCarthy has been among the most ardent supporters of gun control after her husband was shot to death and her son seriously wounded on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.
Finding bipartisan support for the legislation could be a challenge. The bill had 126 cosponsors, and Rep. DeGette said at least 21 more lawmakers had signed on in a period of 24 hours. All of the cosponsors, however, are Democrats, underscoring the reluctance that many Republicans have had about embracing specific gun control policies in response to the Connecticut shooting.
An aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that Republicans would wait to consider a legislative response to the Connecticut shootings until after receiving the recommendations of an interagency administration task force that the president created. President Obama said he expects recommendations from the group, headed by Vice President Joseph Biden in January.
“We join President Obama and all Americans in mourning the victims of this awful tragedy. When the vice president’s group makes specific proposals, we will take a look,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “Right now our focus is, and should be, on the victims, their families and their community.”
Republican Response Mixed
“We’re going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it all in the future,” said incoming Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) “But gun control is not going to be something that I would support.”
Some Republicans and gun-rights groups have kept the door open to legislation that would ban high-capacity clips. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that “every bad event in the world can’t be fixed by government action.” When asked specifically about the banning of large clips, however, he said, “That might be something to look at.”