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Battle Over Gun Legislation Heats Up

One Million Moms for Gun Control; photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

One Million Moms for Gun Control, a group formed after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., marches across the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Not even a week into President Obama’s second term, the battle over guns is beginning to heat up.

On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will introduce a ban on assault weapons. The legislation would ban the sale, transfer, importation and manufacture of assault weapons, as well as ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Feinstein helped push the first assault weapons ban that was enacted in 1994, but it expired after 10 years and has not been renewed.

Feinstein’s effort faces not only an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House, but in the Senate, where many Democratic members support gun rights.

“It is an uphill battle all the way,” Feinstein told USA Today. “That doesn’t mean the battle shouldn’t be waged.”

One Senate Democrat who has signaled discomfort with reinstating the assault weapons ban is Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times traveled with Manchin to a constituent meeting, where the senator found attendees anxious over the talk of gun control efforts:

“How many of you all believe that there is a movement to take away the Second Amendment?” he asked.

About half the hands in the room went up.

Despite his best attempts to reassure them — “I see no movement, no talk, no bills, no nothing” — they remained skeptical. “We give up our rights one piece at a time,” a banker named Charlie Houck told the senator.

If there is a path to new gun laws, it has to come through West Virginia and a dozen other states with Democratic senators like Mr. Manchin who are confronting galvanized constituencies that view any effort to tighten gun laws as an infringement.

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane, meanwhile, writes that Mr. Obama’s wide-ranging proposal to address gun violence could cause a split with one of his top allies on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:

Reelected and unconcerned about ever having to face voters again, Obama seems determined to push a far-reaching agenda — on guns, climate change and gay rights, among other topics — that looks toward his presidential legacy. Reid (D-Nev.), significantly more encumbered, must worry about how to protect 20 Democratic-held Senate seats that will be up for grabs in 2014, while Republicans are defending only 14 spots.

For some Democrats up for reelection next year, supporting the president will be politically treacherous terrain, and no issue may capture that disconnect better than gun control.

Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) face reelection battles in states where gun control is politically unpopular, making their potential votes on the Obama proposals problematic.

A survey released Wednesday by Gallup found a majority of Americans support passage of nine key provisions put forward last week by Mr. Obama, including criminal background checks for all gun sales (91 percent in favor) and increased spending on mental health programs for young people (82 percent). Renewing the assault weapons ban received the backing of 60 percent of respondents, while 54 percent said they favored limiting ammunition to 10 rounds.

Still, given the opposition among lawmakers and from the gun rights lobby, the Obama administration appears set to move forward with the public sale of the proposal in hopes of moving votes on Capitol Hill.

Vice President Biden is scheduled to travel Friday to Richmond, Va., with administration officials and freshman Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine to promote the plan.

On Thursday, the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan will moderate a Google Plus hangout with Biden on the topic of gun violence at 1:45 p.m. ET. The White House posted details here. And here are details on how you can watch and participate.

Also joining the discussion will be Silicon Valley’s Guy Kawasaki, Kimberley Blaine, producer of the web series www.TheGoToMom.TV and host of the Go-To Parents Community on Google Plus, and Philip DeFranco, founder of DefrancoCreative and creator of the YouTube video series “The Philip Defranco Show,” “The Vloggity” and “LikeTotallyAwesome.”


  • The Associated Press reports that Mr. Obama will nominate attorney Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • NewsHour coordinating producer Linda J. Scott reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., faced questions about her divided allegiances when it comes to the Super Bowl matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. “I’m rooting for the 49ers, but I’m not rooting against Baltimore,” said Pelosi, whose father was the mayor of Baltimore. Pelosi called Baltimore her “second team” and said her “only consolation” was that “Harbaugh parents must have a more difficult decision to make.” The teams are coached by brothers John and Jim Harbaugh.

  • In a speech to the Ripon Society on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that Mr. Obama’s aim was to “annihilate” the Republican Party.

  • Boehner has reorganized his staff on the Hill.

  • Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez report that Senate Democrats lack the votes to enact a “talking filibuster.” Politico’s Manu Raju, meanwhile, writes that Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are near a deal that would avert the use of the “nuclear option” by Democrats to change the chamber’s filibuster rules.

  • The Virginia legislature is considering a way to reapportion its electoral college votes based on which presidential candidate wins each congressional district. The change would create vastly different results, likely in favor of Republican candidates, than the winner-take-all system that awarded Mr. Obama the swing state in 2008 and 2012.

  • Also in Virginia, the must-watch race for governor between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic strategist Terry McAuliffe is a dead heat, with candidates polling with about a third of the electorate’s support. As the Times Dispatch story notes, Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling is poised to act as a spoiler if he joins the field.

  • The Washington Post profiles Heritage Action.

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce Thursday the creation of an organization aimed at enticing students to study abroad in China as a way to strengthen relations with the country.

  • Obama campaign campaign veteran Hari Sevugan argues in a Politico op-ed that Mr. Obama’s inaugural address was mainstream, not liberal.

  • What was first lady Michelle Obama’s eye-roll at Boehner during Monday’s inauguration luncheon all about? Well, a lip leader tells “Inside Edition” that it was related to a conversation between Mr. Obama and the speaker about smoking.

  • Freelance journalist Karen Leigh has a dispatch about crossing into Syria.

  • Thursday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA zeroes in on outsourcing and the apparel industry: Between 2005 and 2011, employment in the U.S. textile and apparel industry fell by 40 percent.


  • Clinton faced a grilling before Senate and House committees Wednesday about the September terrorist attack Benghazi, Libya, that killed a U.S. ambassador and others. Republicans have long waited for the chance to interview the secretary of state. Watch Gwen Ifill’s report here or below:

  • Jeffrey Brown also put Clinton’s testimony before two analysts, Danielle Pletka and Nicholas Burns. Watch their discussion here.

  • Watch Clinton’s full testimony here.

  • NewsHour regulars Stu Rothenberg and Susan Page discussed the GOP’s strategy on fiscal policy as it passes a proactive bill to prevent a February debt ceiling crisis and comes to terms with Mr. Obama’s second term. Watch their discussion with Gwen here or below:

  • To shed light on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s move to allow military women to serve on combat front lines, Gwen Ifill spoke with James Kitfield of National Journal. Watch the segment here or below:

  • Jeffrey Brown spoke with author Brad Meltzer about his book “The Fifth Assassin,” about an assassination attempt on a fictional president. That conversation is here.


Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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