Senator Patrick Leahy, Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a gun owner, said he would begin hearings on Obama’s proposals in two weeks and voiced support for closing loopholes that allow two of every five gun sales to occur without a background check.
“I would point out that I have a track record of getting legislation passed. There are some who say nothing will pass. I disagree with that,” Leahy said after a speech on Wednesday at Georgetown University Law Center.
“I think we can tighten up our background checks. There are a number of things we can do,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has publicly expressed doubts about the prospects for an assault weapons ban, said he was committed to ensuring the Senate would consider a gun bill and that “all options should be on the table moving forward.”
A NEW CAMPAIGN
Gun control supporters said the public climate had changed since the Newtown shooting, with polls showing rising support for many of Obama’s proposals.
New groups led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former US representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011, are countering the NRA’s lobbying efforts.
The grassroots campaign structure that propelled Obama to re-election in November last year will also be used to rally support for the gun-control plan among the president’s supporters.
Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the campaign’s volunteers and e-mail contacts could be put to work against the NRA’s extensive lobbying efforts, and that Obama would go into campaign mode to sell his proposals.
“He’s got to get out of the White House and travel the country,” Gibbs said on MSNBC. “He’s got to make his case directly to the people.”
Gibbs said it was time to use the campaign’s list of supporters for something more than an election.
“If the NRA’s got a list, then Obama for America has a bigger list,” he said.
On Wednesday, Obama made an emotional appeal for support, using imagery of children at risk and assuring gun owners their constitutionally protected right to firearms would not be restricted by his proposals.
“This will not happen unless the American people demand it,” he said.
“If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, ‘Enough: We’ve suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue’ — then change will come,” Obama said.