The State of the Gun Laws Is Gridlocked

The Atlantic Wire

More than a week after President Obama demanded that gun violence victims "deserve a vote" on new legislation, we're no closer to any of these bills seeing the floor of Congress then we were a week ago. That's largely because Congress is in recess, of course, but those legislators who have been asked about firearm laws since returning to their districts, from Connecticut to Colorado, don't appear to be budging.

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Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina told a meeting of his constituents that bans on assault weapons and large ammunition clips wouldn't pass, and he wouldn't vote for them anyway. Joe Heck of Nevada, another Republican, agrees with him. Even when confronted with one of the people Barack Obama was talking about (the mother of one of the victims of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting) John McCain gave her some of his famous "straight talk" and told her the assault weapons ban isn't happening. Which should not be a surprise to anyone at this point.

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The only progress at all seems to be happening on the state level. Colorado's House of Representatives just passed four major gun bills that would strongest of almost any Western state, and the biggest package to arrive since the Aurora and Newtown shootings last year. In Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy is vowing to shove new gun control rules through his state legislature, which his party controls. They have the advantage of party strength, fewer people to convince, and recent shooting sprees that hit very close to home.

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But at the federal level, the rhetoric has remained mostly unchanged since the State of the Union address last Tuesday. Vice President Joe Biden spoke alongside Malloy at a gun violence forum in Danbury on Thursday, and essentially echoed the President's plan — which was originally Biden's, of course. They are for the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and an end to high-capacity magazines. The NRA remains staunchly against all those ideas, and is preemptively targeting legislators who might be vulnerable on the issue. The only one that has anything resembling widespread support is expanded background checks, which even the Republicans mentioned above say they can get behind.

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Other than that, however, the forces of compromise are not marching forward on this, at least not until nuts and bolts of putting actual Senate and House bills together starts to happen. And that will likely have to wait until the sequester meltdown gets sorted out or after some other crisis that hasn't yet distracted everyone from the cause. 

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Ultimately, we're right back where we started before the State of the Union. Vote or no vote, the assault weapons ban has no shot at passing; universal background checks is likely to be the only measure that has any bipartisan votes behind it; and everything in between is where the fight for compromise will be waged. Even on insurance.

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