Still unresolved is whether Democrats can secure Republican support for expanding the gun background check program. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) is working with other Democrats to find potential GOP co-sponsors for a revised bill with exceptions for firearm exchanges between family members or close friends. But talks have been hampered by disagreements about whether to establish a record-keeping system for non-commercial gun transactions.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said gun-control advocates are hoping that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will give what Glaze called his “hyper-conservative” stamp of approval to the background check proposal.
“That would give a lot of moderate Democrats and other Republicans some cover, which for whatever reason they feel we need, but if not we press on,” Glaze said. Of all the gun measures under consideration in the Senate, he added, universal background checks are “the biggest policy fix with the greatest public support and the most momentum.”
Nine in 10 Americans support expanding the nation’s background check program, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.
As Congress prepares to leave for a recess, the White House is quietly coordinating with advocates to ensure that they remain united in message and focus as they lobby senators of both parties who have not taken a public stand on the issue, according to people familiar with the talks.
Glaze said his group, founded by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), has hired several dozen field operatives and sent them to states where polling shows overwhelming support for an expanded background check program, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana and Nevada.
As part of its outreach, Glaze said the group plans to mobilize more than 900 mayors and hundreds of police chiefs and shooting survivors to stage events in congressional districts aimed at pressing lawmakers to support expanded background checks. The group is planning a “national day of action” on March 28 that will include petition drives, rallies and news conferences.
The objective, Glaze said, is “to pound the point home on these members that their constituents are watching, and if Congress can’t find a way to support a reform that has the support of 90 percent of the public, that’s going to be a pretty hard decision to defend.”
Separately, Organizing for America, an Obama-backed advocacy group, is planning its own day of action on March 28 to galvanize support around the gun-control proposals, a spokesman said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is co-sponsoring Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban, said that personal stories from the victims of gun violence are resonating most effectively with his colleagues.
“I think we have growing momentum on our side,” he said. “Newtown was a call to action and I think we’ve made tremendous progress. Three-plus months ago, this issue was politically untouchable. This time is different.”
Aaron Blake contributed to this report.
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