The four measures Obama presented — which, taken together, rank among the most ambitious legislative projects of his presidency — appear to have varying levels of support in Congress.
The White House and Democratic lawmakers have calculated that the assault-weapons ban — a version of which passed in 1994 but expired a decade later — has the toughest odds, according to gun-control advocates in regular contact with administration officials. Also in jeopardy, they said, is the proposal to prohibit high-capacity magazines.
But a broad consensus seems more likely to build around universal background checks, which senior administration officials said is Obama’s top priority. Schumer said the idea is “at the sweet spot” of what is politically possible.
The gun trafficking proposal, which would impose new penalties on those who buy multiple firearms and hand them off to criminals, also could find majority support.
“If you are left in a position of having to oppose universal background checks and a firearms trafficking statute, that’s tough for responsible Republicans,” said Matt Bennett, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist think tank.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) adopted a wait-and-see approach Wednesday. His spokesman, Michael Steel, said House committees will consider Obama’s proposals and “if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that.”
But the statements from many other Republicans at both ends of the Capitol were far tougher. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who has threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against Obama, condemned what he described as Obama’s “anti-gun sneak attack” and promised a legislative battle to protect “the God-given right to keep and bear arms.”
A potential presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said: “President Obama is targeting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence.”
And Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who last week said he would be open to some form of gun control, said on Wednesday that Obama’s executive actions amounted to a “power grab” to “poke holes in the Second Amendment.”
No Republican lawmakers attended Wednesday’s White House ceremony. The only vestige of bipartisanship came when Obama invoked former president Ronald Reagan. He noted that Reagan, “one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment,” wrote to Congress in 1994 to urge support for the assault-weapons ban.