The tentative steps ended a paralyzing debate within the administration over how hard to pursue gun-control legislation, which has been a politically perilous issue for many Democrats. There were signs Monday, however, that such fear was abating on the Democratic side of the aisle.
Democratic Sens. Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.) made clear that Congress should consider a range of options to address the issue; all three have been strong supporters of gun rights. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) said she would introduce legislation that would reimpose the assault-rifle ban that lapsed in 2004.
“We need to accept the reality that we’re not doing enough to protect our citizens,” Reid, the Senate majority leader, said after a moment of silence on the chamber’s floor. “In the coming days and weeks, we’ll engage in a meaningful conversation and proper debate about how to change laws and culture that allow this violence to continue to grow. . . . And every idea should be on the table.”
But any significant gun legislation would require support from leading Republicans, none of whom joined Democrats on Monday in outlining specific changes they might consider.
The rising anxiety in Washington over how to respond to the Sandy Hook massacre came as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found a shift in the way most Americans view such tragedies and the reasons behind them.
More than half of the respondents to the poll, conducted over the weekend, said the shooting in Connecticut reflected societal problems rather than the isolated action of a troubled individual. Fewer than a quarter said the same thing after the July shooting in a Aurora, Colo., movie theater, where a gunman killed 12 people and injured dozens.
The president’s push
Obama, who has appeared shaken by the Sandy Hook shootings, met Monday with Biden, who advocated for stricter gun-control measures during his years in the Senate. The president also spoke Monday with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “to begin looking at ways the country can respond to the tragedy in Newtown,” according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Others involved in the new effort include White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; Biden’s chief counsel, Cynthia C. Hogan; and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who traveled with Obama to Connecticut on Sunday to address a memorial service for the Sandy Hook victims.