Obama Facing Defeat in Gun Control Fight

After all the lobbying, the speeches, the tearful testimony the NRA appears to be winning in the battle to pass gun control laws in Congress, as senators on both sides of the aisle are backing away from even the background checks legislation that is supported by 90 percent of the American public.

The NRA has Democrats from strong gun-rights states and Republicans fearful that their re-election would be in danger if they vote for a bill to expand the use of background checks. Advocates are worried that the bill is currently dead in Congress. The NRA even targeted a measure that makes gun trafficking a federal crime, so now even that is looking less than hopeful.

President Obama is trying to find a way to jump-start momentum behind the legislation. He plans to travel to Colorado today and Connecticut on Monday — scenes of the two most recent gun massacres — to attempt to apply public pressure on the senators who are resistant.

Gun control proponent Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who is a survivor of a mass shooting, said the delays have created “an environment so that cowards can succeed.”

“Ninety-one percent of the American people support a universal background check, and we’ve got members on the House and Senate side that are gutless,” she said, according to the Washington Post. “They know in their heart of hearts that it’s the absolute right thing to do, but they are more concerned about their re-election.”

After the president expended so much energy and political capital on the issue, it would be a huge setback for the White House if no new legislation were to emerge from Congress. Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are faulting Obama for spending too much time speaking to the public about gun control, but not enough time meeting privately with members of Congress — a frequent criticism that seems to come up with every issue.

But the conservatives who are holding out are more likely to use a meeting with the president as an opportunity to publicly embarrass him and play up their resistance for the benefit of their base back home.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D., Calif.), who said he had been in frequent contact with the White House about the issue, told the Wall Street Journal that the president needs to talk to lawmakers and make the case to the public at the same time.

“He needs to talk to everybody,” Thompson said.

A television ad campaign targeting 13 senators, financed by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has not been able to change many minds.

The resistant group includes several Democrats up for re-election in 2014 in conservative states with strong traditions of gun ownership: Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.).

“I don’t take gun advice from the mayor of New York City. I listen to Arkansans,” Pryor said in response to the Bloomberg ads.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), who has said he may vote for universal background checks, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it “is a bridge too far for most of us.”

“If there was a secret-ballot vote it would pass overwhelmingly, because from a substantive point of view most of these senators understand that this is the right thing to do,” Matt Bennett, a gun-control advocate and senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist think tank, told the Washington Post. “What’s holding them back is pure politics.”

The NRA is flexing its power by circulating a revision to proposed legislation that critics say would eviscerate the principles agreed to last month by the Senate Judiciary Committee.Though the bill passed by the committee would criminalize all “straw purchases” at licensed gun dealers, the NRA’s draft language would require law enforcement officials to prove that the straw purchaser had reason to believe the buyer was prohibited from obtaining guns or knew that the buyer intended to commit a crime — a standard so impossible that it would be useless.Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the NRA language would create a “ridiculous” standard for law enforcement officials trying to crack down on trafficking.

Jennifer Fiore, the vice president of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told the Washington Post that a mom in her group had a sharp, emotional exchange with a senior aide to a Republican senator, after the staff member repeatedly referred to the record-keeping provisions in the background-check bill as akin to a national gun registry — something the NRA strongly opposes.

“The mom in this office who listened to him talking about registries versus record-keeping was so fed up with that kind of talk that she got pretty real with him, and at the end of that process I could tell he was listening to us,” Fiore said. “Our job is to pop the bubbles that they’re living in and remind them who their constituents are.”

But Fiore said the exchange illustrated the NRA’s influence. “They made it into somebody’s office before I got there,” she said.


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