The 4 things we know about the gun control debate

January 11, 2013

Vice President Biden's Thursday meeting with National Rifle Association officials was the latest opportunity for two sides with starkly different views to find some common ground.

It didn't happen.


Vice President Biden makes brief remarks to the press after a meeting with Cabinet members and sportsmen's, wildlife and gun interest groups on Jan. 10. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The NRA's post-meeting lashing of Biden's working group underscored the deep divide that remains between gun control advocates and gun rights groups.

There have been a lot of moving parts in the renewed debate about guns in the weeks since the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., school. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, in many respects. With Biden's task force set to offer recommendations on how to best curb gun violence next Tuesday, the debate ahead is defined by a few parameters:

1. The NRA's not budging: The nation's largest gun rights group continues to refuse to offer up or agree to any new gun control measures. "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the 2nd Amendment," the group said after its sit-down with Biden. After calling for armed guards to be placed in every school as a means of preventing mass violence, the NRA hasn't backed down, even in the face of some very hard pushback from gun-control advocates.

So far at least, the NRA hasn't faced overwhelming public pressure to change its ways. Most Americans hold a favorable opinion of the group, a recent Gallup poll showed, while fewer than four-in-ten said it has too much influence, according to a Pew survey.

It's becoming clearer that if new gun control measures are going to be signed into law, it will be done over clear objection from the NRA.

2. The Obama administration is moving swiftly ahead: Even with a renewed fiscal debate looming and battles over cabinet confirmations crowding everything else on his plate, Obama's vow to act quickly to curb gun violence has held up. Biden's task force is set to deliver his recommendations next Tuesday, and the proposals could be more sweeping than a renewed ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Biden has also suggested that the president will use executive action if necessary.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested on Sunday that the debate about guns must take a back seat to the country's immediate fiscal matters, like the nation's debt. "None of these issues, I think, will have the kind of priority that spending and debt are going to have over the next two or three months," McConnell said on ABC News's "This Week."

But once Biden offers his group's recommendations, it's difficult to imagine Obama not addressing them quickly. The president recently said he will "not be putting off" gun control. And Obama has already said he backs reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which key lawmakers have promised to press for on Capitol Hill.

3. New voices in an old debate: If there's one thing that's shifted where other things have remained constant, its the rise of new groups that stand to give financial and political muscle to gun control advocates.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, have already picked up big donations for their new PAC. And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC made its mark on the issue of gun control in the 2012 election. NRA opposition groups could be on the verge of becoming as powerful as ever.

4. Consensus will be (very) difficult: Dealing with guns is a complex proposition that can't be broken down along party lines. There are regional factors that must also be taken under consideration. And the millions of dollars being tossed around by outside groups further complicates the picture. Check out the number of Senate Democrats with high marks from the NRA in the Senate. Then, look at the GOP-controlled House that has been stubborn with its own leader. Passing new laws won't be easy.

Obama recently said he will be putting his "full weight" behind gun control measures. His opponents can be expected to do the same in in opposition. If a deal is reached, it may involve the formation of unlikely alliances like one between Wal-Mart and the White House, for example.

Fixbits:

The Obama Administration is looking at installing police officers in schools -- though not to the extent that the NRA would like.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that the lack of diversity in Obama's Cabinet choices is "embarrassing as hell."

Former aides to Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) presidential campaign say they have still not been paid for their work.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) won't challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lead their respective fields in hypothetical 2016 presidential matchups, according to a poll from Democratic automated pollster PPP.

Politico's Glenn Thrush wonders who will replace David Plouffe in the White House.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's (R) husband is off on a year-long National Guard mission in Afghanistan.

Must-reads:

"Democrats Dread 2014 Drop-Off" -- Thomas F. Schaller, The Crystal Ball

"Back From the Fiscal Abyss, California Balances Its Budget" -- Adam Nagourney, New York Times

"Biden sees emerging accord on ‘universal background checks’ for gun buyers" -- Philip Rucker and William Branigin, Washington Post

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Sean Sullivan · January 10, 2013