Hill Democrats look to 'silent majority' on gun control
July 24th, 2012
07:16 PM ET
11 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. bob ho

    same silent majority they looked to while keeping slavery in place. News Flash "Democrat Appointed Supreme Court Rules Dead Scott not human"

    July 25, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  2. Out Of Touch with reality

    silent majority is the owners of most the guns, so democrats lose again, haha

    July 25, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  3. matt

    The Second Ammendment is not about hunting dear. It is about the constitutional right to defend yourself from the government. I swore an oath as a member of the military to defend the constitution, not the government. People need to think before they speak and need to learn from the past. There is a reason things are the way that they are and its not to hunt dear. The fact that the Congress and other government officials use that as an excuse to take away your rights should make you very afraid.

    July 25, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  4. james pfeiffer

    It is all about how we want to evolve as a people. What kind of world do we, as human beings, envision for the future of our country and the whole of civilization. Right now our country seems immature and primitive. Our immature love affair with the wild west and guns is embarrassing. I travel around the world and I can honestly say that opinion of who we are as a nation has plummeting. We seem to be turning into a nation of idiots.

    July 25, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  5. Pete

    I hope the dems push gun control and get there butts handed to them in November. They never learn. Remember the 90's dummies.

    July 25, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  6. 2nd amendment

    Perhaps if someone in the crowd had a carry permit and shot back...it would have ended sooner.Perhaps if several in the crowd had carry permits and fired back....lets just continue to be viewed as sitting ducks. Not this person..I will be shooting back. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

    July 25, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  7. sherrelle bligen

    Well look at JFK and Martin king Jr that most Ppls get tired of shoot and get hurt. Now what happened about va tech and now movie theater got shooting. If you have loved your children and family &friends you lost their life too. If I were law should change their law because person will do buy gun without permit I rather would to police will get ur gun away doesn't matter you are think smart use protect yourself use knife than gun control.I hope you will realized that could be somewhere and you will understand these get serious. Mental ills will not have get gun at all not never happen not safety because their person will get lost own control overdose get gun then shot somebody Who is innocent too!

    July 25, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  8. nolongerarepublican

    Deaths in the US from guns – 12,932
    Deaths in the US from knives – 16,289
    New York city – new gun laws – deaths by knives up 50%
    We need knife control.

    July 25, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  9. ObamaUnitl2016

    The silent majority will not be silent any longer.

    July 25, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  10. Jake

    To be honest, Democrats could pass incredibly strong gun control legislation and not hurt their chances come election time. All the gun ownership nuts are already die-hard Republicans anyway, and they wouldn't vote democratic if the ghost of McCarthy told them to.

    July 25, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  11. kevin

    you obviously are unaware of how close to a revolt by citizens of this country are to invoke against all the restrictions we have now. it is close.

    July 25, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  12. Anders Perillo

    ...says the party of the vocal minority...

    July 25, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. Name

    You always hear what the folks that control our country are going to do to the law abiding citizen but you never hear about making it tuffer on the sick sob that commits these horrific crimes on the law abiding citizen. Maybe we should be more extreme with the punishment! Doesn't that make more sense?

    July 25, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. Mike

    Yes indeed. Lets be reasonable. Does blaming the spoon for Rosie being fat REALLY sound reasonable?

    I propose that every American of voting age, and almost voting age take note of the names of the people in government proposing that it does. Then the very next time to opportunity arises to vote for someone else arises that hey do so.

    The REAL solution to things like this nut doing what he did is being smart. Lets break with tradition and start being smart.

    July 25, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  15. doughnuts

    No, the magazine used in Aurora was NOT intended for use by police or the military. It was a cheap piece of after-market crap that is bought by people who rarely use firearms, and don't know anything about firearms.
    Had he used the high-capacity magazines that are actually used by the police and military, the body count would have been far higher.

    July 25, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  16. Molonlabe

    Why all the talk about these guns and magazines being for police and military and that they are only made to kill people? Obviously they are made to kill people. Our second amendment is not about hunting, it's about having the weaponry to defend against the government. I think we need these weapons more than ever at this time.

    July 25, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  17. bob_lawbla

    Why not just enforce ALL of the laws on the books? It certainly couldn't hurt since most people know that criminals don't abide by them anyway.

    July 25, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
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