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Gun Control Efforts Begin Heating Up

Rocky Mountain Gun Show; photo by George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

People wait to buy tickets for the Rocky Mountain Gun Show in Sandy, Utah, last week. Photo by George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

This week marks a pivotal moment in the effort to curb gun violence, with Vice President Biden, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others mounting campaigns to seize on the urgency of the issue.

Biden is charged with delivering to President Obama this month a set of recommendations for ways the government can intervene.

The vice president will meet with the National Rifle Association and other gun control groups this week amid a series of meetings in the stepped-up discussions. The White House is saying little about the private meetings, which are slated to start Wednesday, but “representatives of victims’ groups and gun safety organizations” are expected to attend, along with Attorney General Eric Holder. The NRA meeting is Thursday.

Roll Call reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with education groups and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will talk to mental health and disability advocates.

As the backdrop for the conversation, Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, have formed a political action committee focused on gun control. The site asks lawmakers to “stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership,” which is a necessary effort, Giffords argues, given the many mass shootings that have happened since she was shot in the head two years ago in Tucson, Ariz.

“This time must be different,” the former Democratic congresswoman writes on the site.

Giffords and Kelly have spoken openly about their own gun ownership and hope to position themselves as sensible voices in the highly charged debate. The Washington Post has more on how the Newtown, Conn., tragedy last month inspired them to speak louder.

Meantime, Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a television ad Tuesday featuring Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter was among those killed when Giffords was shot. The Los Angeles Times reports that the ad will run on cable in Washington and in media markets where there have been mass shootings. The L.A. Times also reports that Mr. Obama’s speechwriting team is working on ways to include gun violence in his inaugural speech or State of the Union address.

Biden has been conferring with Bloomberg, and he also will meet with people representing the video game industry and mental health experts, the White House says.

Also on Tuesday, Cuomo proposed a broader ban on assault weapons, seeking to “broaden the number of guns and magazines covered by the law while also making it harder for gun makers to tweak their products to get around the ban,” the New York Times reports.

Gun control has even trickled down into a special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois, with one of the candidates releasing this web video calling for action.

Congress is on a break until Mr. Obama is inaugurated, but opponents of stricter gun control measures say they are readying for a fight. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told the NewsHour he will block Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s efforts to renew the assault weapons ban.

Nearly a month since the killings in Newtown, the political debate continues to gain traction. Piers Morgan hosted gun advocate and radio host Alex Jones in a segment that has gone viral online because of Jones’ ranting. Elsewhere, Gawker.com on Tuesday published an NYPD list of licensed gun owners in New York City and promptly received death threats.

All of this coincides with preliminary trial hearings for James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring scores of others at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last summer.

Judy Woodruff spoke with Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio on Tuesday’s NewsHour for an overview of what has happened inside the courtroom.

Watch the segment here or below:


  • The Omaha World-Herald resurfaces a story with Chuck Hagel’s expanded comments on James Hormel, a former nominee for an ambassadorship. “I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job,” Hagel said in opposition to the nomination.

  • The Washington Post has some details on the Obama administration’s internal debate about whether to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan even further.

  • Could the federal government make a trillion dollar platinum coin, deposit it into its coffers and avoid the coming debt ceiling showdown in Congress? The idea seems to have taken off, with New York Times columnist Paul Krugma for it. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, vows to stop the minting.

  • Ted Strickland won’t try to win back the Ohio governorship from John Kasich in 2014. The Democrat said only it was a “very difficult” decision to skip a rematch but didn’t say why.

  • Retired Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio begins his tenure at the Republican Main Street Partnership, and it turns “Republican” is getting dropped from its name, Yahoo’s Chris Moody reports.

  • National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar explores the Republican Party “identity crisis.”

  • The Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal congregation and a spiritual and ceremonial focal point for the nation, says it will begin performing same-sex marriages.

  • A survey of Virginia voters from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 46 percent to 41 percent, ahead of their expected gubernatorial matchup this fall. Still, many Virginia voters aren’t familiar enough with the candidates to form an opinion, the survey found.

  • The headline on this PPP poll about Congress’ popularity reads, “Congress is less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, and Genghis Khan among other things.” The Washington Times went with “root canal, cockroaches and lice” on its write-up of the survey. (Congress is more popular than the ebola virus, meth labs and gonorrhea.)

  • Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, is set to deliver the Inauguration Day poem on Jan. 21, reports the New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Blanco, who will be the the country’s fifth inauguration poet and the first Latino-American and first openly gay American to perform this task, told the Times he felt a connection with Mr. Obama since the beginning of his campaign. An inauguration spokeswoman said Mr. Obama chose Blanco because the poet’s work is rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American.

  • “Planners of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration are soliciting high-dollar contributions up to $1 million to help pay for the celebration in exchange for special access,” the Associated Press reports.

  • Free inauguration tickets given to members of Congress are being scalped.

  • Undocumented immigrants will soon be able to drive legally in Illinois.

  • The Root has a post from scholar William Julius Wilson examining Mr. Obama’s record on poverty prevention.

  • Barney Frank tells Politico why he wants the interim appointment to the Senate.

  • CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett will emcee the annual Washington Press Club Foundation dinner on Feb. 6.

  • New York Times elections data wrangler/soothsayer Nate Silver did a Reddit “IAmA” Tuesday.

  • Politico identifies the worst web presences in politics.

  • Happy 100th birthday, President Nixon!

  • “Zero Dark Thirty” premiered Tuesday night in Washington at the Newseum, where anti-torture protesters shadowed the red carpet.

  • Wednesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA is an infographic about the nation’s 13,500 chemical plants.


  • For the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Richard Ben Cramer’s success in political writing was his ability to understand that candidates are human beings, too. For Joe Klein, Time Magazine columnist and the author of the presidential campaign novel “Primary Colors,” Cramer taught him, “Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.” Cillizza and Klein joined Gwen Ifill on Tuesday’s NewsHour for a tribute to the late author of “What It Takes.”

Watch their conversation here or below:

  • Cramer spoke to the NewsHour in 1996 on the eve of Bob Dole’s Republican presidential nomination. Watch the archival interview here.

  • The NewsHour excerpted a segment of Frontline’s latest show, on former Washington D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and her attempts to reform the system. Find that coverage here.

  • On Wednesday, the NewsHour will host a live online chat with leaders in education on how STEM programs might close the achievement gap. That begins at 1 p.m. ET. More information is here.


Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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