April 19, 2013

President, momentum outgunned by the NRA

The passion of its members foils new gun-control efforts despite public support and outrage over mass killings.

The Associated Press

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Supporters of gun control measures hold signs on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on Thursday during a rally to honor U.S. victims of gun violence since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

The Associated Press

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She would know. After her husband, former White House press secretary Jim Brady, was partially paralyzed in the shooting of President Ronald Reagan, it took repeated tries over six years to pass a bill named after him that instituted background checks.

"We have to prove to them that this is an issue about which the overwhelming majority of the public agrees and is passionate enough to hold them accountable," Gross said in an interview. "We have to prove to them it's safe to do the right thing, and unsafe for them to do the wrong thing."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a media executive who has financed ads aimed at electing lawmakers who support gun control, said Thursday he would work to defeat senators who voted against background checks. A fundraising email to fund a similar effort went out from Americans For Responsible Solutions, the group founded by injured former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly.

Asked which senators would be targeted for their opposition, Kelly, a former astronaut and Navy pilot, said: "It's a target-rich environment, as we would say in the military."

The families of some of the Sandy Hook victims came as late entrants attempting to counter the influence of gun-rights activists on the debate. Over five days in Washington during the past two weeks, they met with 35 senators to ask for their support in memory of their children. They were credited with helping stop a block of debate on the bill, but even their emotional pleas were not enough to win passage.

Some say they, too, won't give up.

This week, for gun control advocates nurturing fading hopes of Senate passage of expanded background checks, the breaking point came Tuesday and early Wednesday, when a pair of GOP senators announced they'd oppose the effort.

Gun control supporters believed that Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were still possible votes for the measure. But Heller said Tuesday he'd oppose the compromise -- which had been worked out by Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey -- and Ayotte said the same Wednesday morning.

They would have been the 56th and 57th votes. Had they agreed, gun control supporters say they might have had a chance to persuade three of the four Democratic senators who ended up voting "no" to instead push the measure over the top by getting to the needed 60 votes.


-- Press Herald Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller contributed to this story.


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