In his brief and emotional remarks to the nation on Friday president Obama hinted at some kind of action to come on guns. So what does that mean? A Renewal of the assault weapons ban as he has previously suggested? Stricter gun purchasing regulations? A ban on the sale of high capacity ammunition clips?
All of these measures will face resistance on the Hill. The Republican majority in the House, pulled slightly to the right by its Tea Party members, makes the passage of any gun control bill unlikely. There are some congressional Democrats that will make this a major issue in the next session but how far will they get and how much political capital are they willing to expend on a likely sisyphean cause? Control advocates have a better path to success in the Senate where Democrats are in firm control but they still don’t have enough votes to overcome a likely filibuster from conservative pro-gun Republicans. This makes battle over filibuster reform all the more intriguing.
Does the country even want tougher gun-control? As Nate Silver notes in a post to FiveThirtyEight the discussion on guns has moved from “control” to “rights”.
If the news coverage is any guide, there has been a change of tone in recent years in the public conversation about guns. The two-word phrase “gun control” is being used considerably less often than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But the phrase “gun rights” is being used more often. And the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is being invoked more frequently in the discussion
Polling conducted by Gallup and others indicates that Americans are open to reinstituting an assault weapons ban but against implementing stricter gun laws. A 2011 survey indicated that over 47 percent of Americans claim to keep guns in their home or on their property.
High profile spree shootings haven't moved public opinion in the past but that may change now because of the brutality of the Newtown massacre.
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