April 22, 2013

House Democrats try to pressure GOP on guns

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Monday began a campaign to pressure congressional Republicans to permit a vote on gun control measures.

House of Representatives Republican leaders have said they are weighing how to proceed.

The Democrats' online ads direct backers to a petitition atDCCC.org/background-checks where people can "make their voice heard demanding a vote."

The Senate last week rejected a plan to toughen background checks. Five Democrats opposed the plan, though one was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who voted no for procedural reasons. Four Republicans voted for it. The plan lost, 54-46.


April 18, 2013

Reid: Time to "hit a pause" on gun control bill

The Senate will put aside gun control legislation for awhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

"I've spoken with the president. He and I agree that the best way to keep working toward passing a background check bill is to hit a pause and freeze the background check bill," Reid, D-Nevada, told Senate colleagues.

He insisted the bill will be back, and senators will once again be allowed to offer amendments. He gave no timetable.

"We're going to have time to work on what people want to do before we come back to this," he said. "And it will give  opponents an opportunity to decide what they want to do when we get back on this."

And, he added, "it will give antigun advocates time to make their voices heard by Republican senators."


April 17, 2013

Reid will back assault ban

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has long been a gun rights supporter, but said Wednesday he'll back the assault weapons ban up for a Senate vote later today.

"I will vote for the ban because maintaining law and order is more important than satisfying conspiracy theorists who believe in black helicopters and false flags," he told Senate collagues. "And I will vote for the ban because saving the lives of young police officers and innocent civilians is more important than preventing imagined tyranny."

Reid noted, "I am a strong supporter of Americans’ right to keep and bear arms. That’s how I earned a B grade from the National Rifle Association. When I was a 12-year-old little boy in Searchlight, Nevada, my parents sent away for a 12-gauge shotgun from the Sears catalogue. And I carried a handgun when I served on the Capitol Police force," Reid recalled. 

"Where I come from, people own guns as a matter of course for self-defense and for hunting," said the Nevada Democrat, "but I have always had trouble understanding why people need assault weapons to hunt or to protect their homes.

"When the assault weapons ban came before the Senate for a vote in 1993 I called my friends in Nevada to ask their opinion on the legislation. One friend said he believed it was impossible to define what an assault weapon was. That seemed reasonable to me, and so I voted against the ban."

Here's more from his Senate speech:

Continue reading "Reid will back assault ban" »

Background check compromise loses a crucial vote

Supports of the Manchin-Toomey background check compromise lost a crucial vote as Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, announced he was opposed.

That will make it even more difficult for the effort to get the 60 votes needed to pass. A vote is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

Here's Heller's statement:

"When it comes to national policy choices on issues such as Constitutional liberties, gun violence and public safety, the stakes could not be higher. The enormity of this issue has weighed heavily on me. While I was home this past weekend, my family and I ate at the Carson IHOP where four people lost their lives and several were injured. The survivors of that senseless shooting in the morning hours of September 6, 2011, deserve this debate.

“I believe very strongly that our current background check system needs strengthening and improving, particularly in areas that could keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill.  At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  Despite the good faith efforts of Senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern. I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens. For these reasons, I cannot vote for this legislation."


April 16, 2013

Senate plans gun votes Wednesday starting at 4 p.m.

The Senate plans to begin voting at 4 p.m. Wednesday on nine amendments to its gun safety bill, amendments that deal with a wide range of gun control and gun rights issues.

Each vote will last 10 minutes, and there will be two minutes of debate equally divided between each side before each vote.

It's not clear when a final vote on the bill will be taken.

First vote is expected to come on a stronger background check measure, a compromise pushed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Then will come amendments on gun traffricking, extending conceald carry laws, banning assault weapons, limiting the size of magazine clips and more.

House version of background check bill introduced

Two House of Representatives lawmakers have introduced legislation to strengthen gun background checks, the House version of the Senate compromise on the issue.

Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., are lead sponsors. The Senate is debating the measure this week, and a vote is expected later in the week. 

Thompson and King released a joint statement: “Background checks are the first line of defense against criminals and the dangerously mentally ill getting guns. This bill is comprehensive, it is enforceable, it will save lives, and it will protect the rights of law abiding Americans to own guns. It’s time for Congress to act. The American people are getting a vote in the Senate. They deserve one in the House."

Whether that vote will be held in the House remains uncertain.

Here's more from Tuesday's news release:

Continue reading "House version of background check bill introduced" »

April 11, 2013

Boehner waiting to see gun legislation before making any commitments

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is making no commitments on gun control legislation.

Shortly after the Senate voted to proceed with debate, Boehner told his weekly news conference that he expects the House to act.

But he couldn't say what or how, since the Senate has far to go.

 "Listen," he said, "the issue of guns (has) been an issue for the 22 years that I've been in Congress.  And the thing that we have to remember is that laws are only as good as our citizens' willingness to obey them.

"And law-abiding citizens, do, in fact, obey them. Criminals don't obey them.  In addition to that, we've got a system of laws that are not in force today."

Boehner added: "Now, I would think that before we begin to add more rules and regulations on law-abiding citizens, that we at least expect our law enforcement personnel and the Department of Justice to enforce the current law, which they are not doing."

April 10, 2013

Senate will take first vote on gun legislation at 11 a.m. Thursday

     The Senate plans a vote Thursday at 11 a.m. on whether to cut off debate on the effort to proceed to gun control legislation.

      If it gets the required 60 votes, considered likely, "there's no reason not to start legislation," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Wednesday. If the vote succeeds, there could still be 30 hours of debate.

      Reid hoped not. "I hope we don't have to go through this procedural mishmash," he said. "Somebody has something to say, come say it."

       Next would come amendments, on an assault weapons ban, restricting magazine clips and more. That process is expected to take about two more weeks. The first amendment will involve the compromise on background checks announced Wednesday.

           Reid was not concerned with how long the process takes. The key, he said, is "Are we going to legislate the right way?"


March 22, 2013

Kohut: Republican conservatives "are far beyond the mainstream"

Veteran pollster and political analyst Andrew Kohut sees the Republican party leaning so far right it's handcuffing their ability to retake the White House.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Kohut, former Pew Research Center president, writes "In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today."

He sees little hope for change, seeing "little reason to believe that the staunch conservative bloc will wither away or splinter; it will remain a dominant force in the GOP and on the national stage.

But, he said, "at the same time, however, I see no indication that its ideas about policy, governance and social issues will gain new adherents. They are far beyond the mainstream."

As a result, the party faces a dilemma: "While staunch conservatives help keep GOP lawmakers in office, they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections," Kohut said.

His research has found that "a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives has become a dominant force on the right. Indeed, it is their resolve and ultra-conservatism that have protected Republican lawmakers from the broader voter backlash that is so apparent in opinion polls."

The percentage of people self-identifying as Republicans has hit historic lows, Kohut said, "but that within that smaller base, the traditional divides between pro-business economic conservatives and social conservatives had narrowed. There was less diversity of values within the GOP than at any time in the past quarter-century."

And, he added, "According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media."

While polarized news consumption is hardly new, Kohut found, "it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend."

To read more:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-numbers-prove-it-the-republican-party-is-estranged-from-america/2013/03/22/3050734c-900a-11e2-9abd-e4c5c9dc5e90_story.html?hpid=z1

February 07, 2013

House Democrats unveil gun control package

House of Representatives Democrats Thursday unveiled a sweeping series of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence, a package that includes an assault weapons ban and stronger background checks.

Lawmakers conceded chances of passing the entire package are slim, though pieces do have strong support, notably the background checks.

Still, said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, "I think we should move as boldly as possible and see where we come out."

The package is the result of studies by a special House Democratic task force chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

The package:

Ø  Support the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. The United States Supreme Court affirmed individuals’ 2nd rights to firearms in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).  However, the Supreme Court also held that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Within the limits described by Heller, the federal government has the responsibility to take appropriate steps to protect our citizens from gun violence.

Ø  Support citizens’ rights to possess firearms for hunting, shooting sports, defense, and other lawful and legitimate purposes: In the United States, there is a long tradition of hunting and recreational shooting, and firearms are often passed down within families from generation to generation. Policies passed by Congress should respect this.

Ø  Reinstate and strengthen a prospective federal ban on assault weapons: These weapons are designed to fire a large number of rounds in a short period of time. They constitute a lethal threat to law enforcement and other first responders.

Continue reading "House Democrats unveil gun control package" »


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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