Al Franken backs assault weapons ban in principle, wants to review proposal

Al Franken is undecided on an assault weapons ban. (AFP/Getty)
Al Franken is undecided on an assault weapons ban. (AFP/Getty)

This post has been updated.

At a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he supports two key parts of President Obama's plan to deal with gun violence: new limits on high-capacity magazines and strengthening background checks for gun buyers.

Franken did not take a position on an assault weapons ban. "He's been listening to Minnesota, trying to be thoughtful on this and trying to get input from people from a wide spectrum of views," a spokesman told the Rochester Post-Bulletin. The senator himself later told the paper, "I also support the principle that we should reinstate a ban on assault weapons, and I will carefully review any proposal to do that."

In contrast with his role in the major policy debates during Obama’s first term, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is likely to step back on guns, according to Senate Democratic aides. He will leave it to Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) to shepherd the legislation, at least for now.

Reid is concerned about the potential political impact on fellow Democrats representing rural or conservative states, and he believes gun control could become a significant issue for at least 10 of the 23 Democratic Senate seats up for grabs in 2014, aides said.

Franken is up for reelection in 2014, but his seat seems fairly secure. Former senator Norm Coleman (R) is not interested in a rematch and has made clear that the thinks his party will have a tough time unseating his former rival. Franken's approval rating is solid, and Republicans don't have a top-tier challenger. On the other hand, Franken won a three-way race in 2008 with only 42 percent, and plenty of outside groups will be happy to spend against him.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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