Hill Democrats look to 'silent majority' on gun control
July 24th, 2012
07:16 PM ET
6 years ago

Hill Democrats look to 'silent majority' on gun control

Washington (CNN) - Last week's massacre in Colorado dominated the dialogue on Capitol Hill Tuesday as top Democrats called for a national conversation on gun control but declined to offer any new proposals on the hot button issue.

Citing the alleged shooter's use of an assault weapon equipped with a high capacity ammunition magazine that could fire 100 rounds, a group of congressional Democrats pressed for a ban on the sale of this type of ammunition. Similar legislation was introduced last year after a mass shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.

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While a number of senior Democratic leaders support this proposal, they haven't pushed for a vote on it. On Tuesday, they were quick to place blame for the lack of stricter gun control measures squarely at the feet of their GOP counterparts.

"We see what's in the (Republican-controlled) House and we see the power of the NRA around here," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

"The way to overcome it is for citizens, the silent majority," to speak out, he asserted, invoking a term made famous over 40 years ago by Republican President Richard Nixon.

"The Second Amendment can have reasonable limits," Schumer declared.

For their part, top Republicans made clear that new gun control laws have no chance of winning approval in Congress.

"I don't sense any movement among either Democrats or Republicans in the direction of thinking that stricter gun control laws would likely have prevented this horrible occurrence in Colorado," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters that Republicans are merely following the lead of President Barack Obama.

"The president has made clear that he's not going to use this horrific event to push for new gun laws, and I agree," Boehner told reporters.

While Obama visited victims of the massacre over the weekend, the White House appears to be wary of offending politically influential gun owners in the middle of a tough re-election fight.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Sunday that the "president's view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that's his focus right now."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, avoided pointed questions on the issue on Tuesday.

"I'm not going to be here with each of you debating gun control," Reid told reporters. "I'm not going to be debating magazine size and other things."

Pelosi told CNN she's "concerned about the people who died (in Colorado) and getting all the facts as to how that happened."

The result: House members united in a moment of silence on Tuesday afternoon to mourn the death of 12 people and the wounding of dozens more. The Colorado delegation introduced a resolution honoring and commemorating the victims. But there was no hint of any agreement on policy proposals.

Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat and a gun control advocate, conceded that every time an incident similar to the Colorado shooting happens, those pushing for new restrictions can't get the votes to pass any new laws.

Another top House Democrat also acknowledged the continuing political difficulties of gun control advocates – even within the more progressive Democratic caucus.

"If you look at polling data and the information, obviously one man's tea becomes another man's poison based on what … region or (part of) the country that you're in," Connecticut Rep. John Larson told CNN. "We face some very strong opposition."

Forty-nine percent of Americans think it's more important to protect gun rights than to control gun ownership, according to an April 4-15 poll from the Pew Research Center. Forty-five percent believe gun control is more important.

Regardless, New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy – elected to the House in the 1990s after her husband was killed in a shooting on the Long Island Railroad – was one of several Democrats on Tuesday who urged members of both parties to support a ban on at least the type of high capacity ammunition magazine used in Aurora, Colorado.

"All we're hearing from the NRA is we're taking" away gun rights, McCarthy said. "This has nothing to do with Second Amendment rights." The magazine used by alleged gunman James Holmes was "made for military, for police. This is meant to kill as many people as possible" in the shortest possible period of time, she added.

"Let's be reasonable about what is acceptable," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey. "This is clearly about killing as many people as possible...You wouldn't shoot a deer with 100 bullets."

It's time for a national conversation to "crystallize the thinking of Americans" on gun control, he declared.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the most outspoken congressional proponents of gun control, insisted Tuesday he will not be deterred by long odds.

"There is almost a resignation to the futility of our mission," he told reporters. "But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to mount the effort. That's where it falls. It falls in the Congress. So we will carry on."

Filed under: 2012 • Congress
soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Modified gun control which prohibits the sale of assault weapons (like we had with the Brady Bill), needs to be reinstated. The problem? Too many legislators who cower to gun interests because they fund their campaigns. Do what the PEOPLE want and prohibit the sale of assault weapons.

    July 25, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  2. whatgives

    Stop protecting the criminals and change the constitution to remove the rights of the criminals instead of going after your everyday hard working citizens. You dont remove all your knives from your kitchen, you teach your children the danger of them. How about more gun safety programs more youth education on the danger of firearms and how to use them responsibly. If youre going to have your citizens armed for gods sake educate them. We make people get licenses to drive cars make them go through safety courses to own guns. Categorize firearms, you want to own an assault rifle, then you should have to go through a ridgid screening process.

    July 25, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  3. Jeff

    "Citing the alleged shooter's use of an assault weapon equipped with a high capacity ammunition magazine that could fire 100 rounds, a group of congressional Democrats pressed for a ban on the sale of this type of ammunition. Similar legislation was introduced last year after a mass shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona." This sentence doesn't even make sense, Democrats pushed for a ban on the sale of what type of ammunition..? What does that have to do with magazines? People also seem to forget he opened fire with a shotgun as well. Listen the man improvised explosives with trip wires in his home he could have caused more devastation with an IED. Stop blaming everything except the man. Pass more ccw laws!

    July 25, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  4. montanalibertarian

    Just try it.

    I'd love to see a bunch of Democrats attempt to forward gun control at this time.

    The problem was the shooter, not the weapons.

    July 25, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  5. montanalibertarian

    I'd love to see the Dems pursue this line of fruitless action.

    The problem is NOT the weapon. It is the deranged shooter. And everybody capable of rational thought knows it.

    July 25, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  6. Tom

    No gun control, then no republicans! Vote the GOP congressional members out of office.

    July 25, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  7. movinman

    The leadership at the NRA insists that all forms of firearms be made available to "prevent government tyranny". There are quite a few attention seekers out there that thank the NRA for all its efforts, and if they learn from Mr. Holmes mistakes, maybe they can be famous too. Until we get the politicos with the courage to stand up to the gun industry, and their lapdogs at the NRA, (Mr. LaPierre) these situations will continue as the news coveraZge is too great to pass up for the immature minds out there.

    July 25, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  8. JoeArizona

    The NRA and their Republican lackeys are turning our streets into a bloodbath. Thanks to a lack of gun regulation and enforcement, we have a free-for-all for criminals and domestic terrorists. The NRA and self-proclaimed 'conservatives' provide aid and comfort to those bent on killing us and terrorizing us. They continue to block legislation which would require background checks on internet gun sales in order to identify and prevent sales to criminals, and they block bans of large clips like the one used in this slaughter of the innocent. A vote for Republicans is a vote to protect terrorists, criminals, and drug dealers.

    July 25, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  9. Brandon

    What part of "shall not be infringed" do they not get?

    Our rights as citizens are not determined by the behavior of the lowest common denominator. Period. Murder is already illegal.

    Given that gun sales have skyrocketed in Colorado in response to this, I think the nation has decided quite firmly what they think of gun control and "assault weapon" bans (hint: there is no such thing as an assault weapon... it's a meaningless scare-tactic term).

    July 25, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  10. bluntstick

    "All we're hearing from the NRA is we're taking" away gun rights, McCarthy said. "This has nothing to do with Second Amendment rights." The magazine used by alleged gunman James Holmes was "made for military, for police. This is meant to kill as many people as possible" in the shortest possible period of time, she added.

    Except the "high-capacity" after market magazine more than likely saved lives, because it jammed his AR-15 forcing him to abandon his primary weapon. Also, an AR-15 is NOT an assault rifle, it is the civilian equivalant of the m-16 WITHOUT the ability to shoot full auto, or three round burst, it is SINGLE SHOT ONLY, which means your not assaulting anything other than unarmed civilians. On top of which the "high-powered" rifle references are just a sensationalist joke. An AR-15 fires a .223 round, ya thats right its a .22 caliber round with a little extra gunpowder. Even and Ak round a 7.62mm is NOT a high powered round. Now when you get into hunting rifles, like a .308 and up those are "high-powered"

    July 25, 2012 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  11. John Williams

    The only problem with this statement is that the "silent majority" is actually a "loud minority". Most people are quite happy with the current laws and don't want them stricter. I personally think that what needs to happen is the media needs to take this guys face and name off the air. It's sad how badly you all wish to profit from his actions, knowing it will only likely inspire more to follow in his footsteps.

    July 25, 2012 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  12. ngc1300

    The only reasonable thing to do is to change IRS rules to allow a credit for purchase of firearms. A credit of $100 would be sufficient for a Saturday night special, or $600 for a good semi-auto rifle. A special category could be created for those who need a full auto high capacity weapon. Perhaps $2000. Health care is not constitutional, but death is.

    July 25, 2012 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  13. pprty

    We have speed limits for traffic – it doesn't take away your right to drive. Same thing applies to limiting the amount of bullets. It is a limit – it doesn't take away the right to own a firearm.

    July 25, 2012 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  14. Jack

    LOLZ!! Since when have liberals been either silent or a majority? They are the loud mouthed 35%

    July 25, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  15. Country_doc

    "It's time for a national conversation to "crystallize the thinking of Americans" on gun control, he declared". Sort of like the way we had a national forum on healthcare reform (67% against, yet still passed)?

    July 25, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  16. Ignominious

    Regardless of your opinion, the only legal "gun control" legislation would be a constitutional amendment. Otherwise it's all the same old, tired lies about what the second amendments purpose is.

    If we lose the "second amendment" protections all others protections will be gone or heavily restricted in a short time.

    July 25, 2012 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  17. John CCopeland

    It is sad to witness our political "leaders" fall into a group that wishes to limit or remove weapons from every citizen of the United States due to a heinous act by a person who found no other avenue of expression than to color his hair orange and assume the name of a comic book character. What he has done to his fellow man is not a matter of debate on the floor of the senate but rather something that needs to be addressed by those who are unable to see above the rear sights of a weapon. To even suggest limiting or removing weapons from the general public is tantamount to a violation of outr Constitution which would not be here had our forefathers fought for it using firearms. Get off the beaten track of how he did it and concentrate on why he did it. example: how many firearms did Timothy McVeigh use to change the GPS setting for Oklahoma City? Answer: None. As we continue to fault the method used to kill people we move further away from the reason why. Our government wishes to present to the country its solution to widespread massacre of innocent members of society by trying to remove the only thing that makes our society what is is – secure. Should only law enforcement have weapons? If no one else does, why? If our elected public servants ever get off their behinds and start going after the reasion "environmental psychologists have a degree program, they might be able to effect changes in the way people like Holmes think about their surroundings and not take their frustrations out on the general populace. Problem with that is it is too hard, gun control is easy as it is dealing with tangibles (weapons). As bad as this sounds, supposing their was a gun control law in place and Holmes had to use a stilleto knife instead.

    July 25, 2012 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  18. Baldr Odinson

    Well, I'm sure as hell not going to be silent! It's time to enact sensible gun regulation to reduce the insane number of shootings in America. Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban. Demand mandatory background checks for ALL gun purchases, including private purchases. Ban high-capacity ammo clips. We need to do it now, and we don't need to be shy about it.

    July 25, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  19. truthfulster@gmail.com

    New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy is wrong according to police reports, the magazine the perp used in his assault rifle misfired and clogged the gun from firing again. When all tests are complete you'll see that most if not all of the killings were done with the pistols he was carrying. I am a gun owner and after living under Obama's rule I believe more then ever to leave gun control the way it is now. I would only change my ability to carry my guns all over the country using my state license. I believe Ice Tea was right when he said our ability to own guns is the last wall against tyranny. Many of our police and military would act like puppets if a revolution would erupt and I feel safer knowing I have guns in my home. In fact my wife can see the need also, that fact alone makes me know it's the right decision.

    July 25, 2012 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  20. BillinCA

    Taking away our gun rights chip by chip is not going to stop people from murdering people. Some one could easily drive a car through a crowded market to attempt at mass murder. Are they going to start writing car control laws by limiting gas tank sizes for that purpose? These bans only affect law abiding citizens, not murders that couldn't care less about laws. When there's a will, they will find a way to murder people.

    July 25, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  21. Mike

    Our founding fathers did not write the second amendment to protect our right to guns just for hunting...

    July 25, 2012 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  22. Chedar

    It's simple. Ban any weapon that kill.

    July 25, 2012 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  23. Anonymous poster

    The Second Amendment is not about protecting ourselves from the intruder breaking into our house. It is about empowering the people of this country with the means to defeat a government that becomes as corrupt as the one our founding fathers seceded from.

    July 25, 2012 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  24. Tim

    It gets tiring to hear the media and our "leaders" to erroneously refer to these weapons as "assault weapons". They are not assault weapons. On the magazine issue, these aren't made for the military so Rep McCarthey needs to get her facts straight. Why are the Democrats trying to lay this at the feet of the Republicans when they don't offer any ideas themselves? Why try to inact new laws when current ones are not enforced?

    July 25, 2012 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  25. Randall

    Representative McCarthy says that semi-automatic assault rifles like the M&P-15 were "made for military, for police. This is meant to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible period of time." Can you think of one situation where a police officer would need to have such a weapon?

    July 25, 2012 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
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