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. Brad Smith

    This debate goes on and on. Watch Jerry Miculek or Bob Munden and tell me which is more lethal, a revolver or a semi-auto. it isn't the weapon people, it is the operator of it. If the Aurora killer were a United States Marine, would you blame the corps for training him? What if he had blown up the theater, which actually was more in his expertise, would we blame the university, his 9th grade science teacher? Bad people do bad things, that unfortunately has always been. Grow up people, it's not the weapon, but the intent of the person using it.

    July 25, 2012 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  2. visionarey

    I've got your "silent majority" right here...and it's going to VOTE OBAMA AND HIS MARXIST CRONIES OUT OF OFFICE IN NOVEMBER! Votes are more powerful than guns, and American's are through with this clown.

    July 25, 2012 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  3. Shorn

    NRA runs the Republican majority. So the obvious fact that there is no reason on earth for anyone to have a magazine with a 100 shot capacity will be utterly ignored. Ban assault rifles, ban high capacity magazines. I don't want your guns, I want to take away your ability to shoot 70 people by standing in a corner of a room and pulling the trigger as fast as you can. Not even cops should have 100 round clips. Delete them.

    OK, now let's hear from the people who think the ability to shoot 70 people including children is their "right."

    July 25, 2012 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  4. kirk

    "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria.

    July 25, 2012 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  5. Kenny

    Just an opinion, but if they adapted new gun laws wouldn't these mass murderers likely just take extra measures to ensure or increase their chances of success when committing these crimes. If you take assault rifles away for instance then the lunatic who wants to kill everyone is just going to pick another method to make sure the task is carried out. Their next weapon of choice would likely be explosives or by fire/arson as you see more in remote countries where these weapons are not as available. Personally I'd rather be shot or take my chances with the gun than being blown to pieces or set on fire where I'm likely to not escape with my life.. Criminals are always finding new ways around the law or breaking it. I'm not 100% sure that allowing assault rifles to be purchased from the public is the correct thing to do, but I do believe taking them away would just end up creating a new problem if not more than one 'new' problem. Human beings are innovative and when someone wants to do something like this it's hard to stop them since the element of surprise is in their court.

    I think the best first step measures for this situation would be to monitor online purchases and limit the purchases on these types of items. Also to spend more time trying to identify these type of individuals who should not be allowed to own a weapon in the first place. Certainly do not let criminals who have been known to be criminals and have charges under their belt (that are not minor common violations)

    That's just my opinion.

    July 25, 2012 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  6. Chris

    NRA members consists of only 20% of the population, yet they completely control the gun debate in this country. And actually there is no gun "debate" in this country – because every time there's an attempt at a discussion about the effect of guns, all the NRA people rush in, completely dominate the conversation and shout down anyone who has a differing viewpoint than their own.

    July 25, 2012 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  7. noname

    Apparently Mckarthy doesn't understand anything about weaponry. A drum clip of the type used is not for "killing as many people as possible" , it is for suppresive fire. Suppresive fire is a resonable form of defense. Why doesn't pencil pushers like you people get educated before you "legislate". This guy was an idiot when it comes to firearms too, or he would've droped the weight of the rifle and carried more 12ga rounds. Even If libs actually got guns bannd

    July 25, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  8. noname

    Even if libs got all guns banned the 49% ,which its prob higher, would take rocks and shoot out of pipes to rid our republic of those that take our rights.

    July 25, 2012 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  9. Mike Searcy

    One big problem, a majority of people don't want new gun control laws so there is no "silent majority" to speak to.

    July 25, 2012 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  10. larry

    Keep looking. Even Democrats are buying guns.

    July 25, 2012 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  11. Jim

    CNN: you sound so disappointed. Also, no police force I know would ever concede to using the 100-round drum magazines. The only weapon that uses them in the US Arsenal is the USMC's new Individual Automatic Rifle.

    July 25, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  12. Anonymous

    It's not the guns stupid.

    July 25, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  13. jaydee

    Come on now, everyone needs an AK47 and 6000 rounds of ammo. It is our right.

    July 25, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  14. johnnyvn

    Lautenberg is a fossil. He's also never done a thing for NJ. And Menendez isn't far behind. They should do something to bring jobs home rather than shamelessly grandstand after a tragedy.

    Then, there is Carolyn McCarthy – the LPN from Mineola whose whole career is based on gun control and she embarrasses herself not knowing what her legislation bans time and time again. Here's a clue. The 100 round mag is a piece of junk that didn't work. But, now you're back to 10 rounds which is smaller than the mags on virtually every pistol and semiauto. And tell me why? Gun violence goes down year after year.

    America has already rejected this. It was called the 1994 assault weapons ban.

    July 25, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  15. foffe1

    The reason the police want high capacity mags is because they want to be on an even footing with the criminals who have high capacity mags.

    July 25, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  16. S Gillespie

    Where in the Second Amendment does it talk about killing deer?

    July 25, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  17. Paul

    I will not in any way give up more of my rights to this so called "Gun Control". You want to pass a real good gun control law how about automatic death sentence to anyone found to be using a gun in the commission of a crime and it is to be a mandatory law in which even a judge cannot stop the enforcement of it regardless of how he feels about the enforcement of the death sentence.This law would make anyone think twice before using a firearm in the act of a crime and would reduce court time and costs. Time we start taking the rights of the criminal away in place of taking my rights away.

    July 25, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  18. Average Citizen

    We need these magazines to protect ourselves from the increasingly tyrannical government. We are going to need all the help we can get when they try to disarm us.

    July 25, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  19. Robert

    No assault rifle involved. Assault rifles are selective fire and can be fire in fully automatic mode.

    The real tragedy is that these crazies kill innocent people instead of worthless (liberal) politicians.

    July 25, 2012 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  20. Stopthemadness

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

    Of course they did they are owned by big pharma, big business, and of course the NRA. So if you think the republicans will ever vote on taking money from the NRA and Gun and ammo manufacturers, you are sorely mistaken.

    July 25, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  21. JamesS

    "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.'"

    So what about this guy would have disqualified him under existing law? His only record was a traffic ticket. He was a student. Never been in trouble before. Everything he bought was above board and through existing channels.

    He was just crazy, that's all. No law against crazy as far as I know.

    As for more gun laws? He ignored the "no guns in theater" law - why would anyone suppose that MORE laws for crazy/criminal people to ignore would work, except to take guns out of the hands of the law-abiding citizens?

    July 25, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  22. thats funny right there

    even if they where to tighten gun control and ban certain types. people like this nut job will still be able to get a hold of this type of weapons, so it is really a catch 22 and hurts the every day law abiding gun owners out there.

    July 25, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  23. mike

    Soooooo....according to New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, it's ok for police to have high capacity magazines designed to kill people in the shortest amount of time possible? Seriously, the police? The police are to enforce laws and capture criminals, not kill as many people as they can in as short a time possible. I would hate to justify the need for law enforcement to have these high capacity ammunition magazines as well.

    July 25, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  24. dave richman

    Sorry Dems. the silent majority has been polled repeatedly and voted repeatedly to uphold the second amendment. That is not going to change while our government is so mistrusted and nonfunctional as it is today. The very reason for the second amendment is just such a situation as we find ourselves approaching.

    July 25, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  25. pray

    I am one of the silent majority and we may support a ban on assault weapons but that is the limit on gun control. Not on nullets, hand guns, rifles etc.

    July 25, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
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