Obama’s Gun Control Plan DOA In Congress?

Despite the push it's likely to receive, most of President Obama's gun control proposals will barely even see the light of day in Congress.

Capitol Buidling Dayime2

Later this morning, President Obama will unveil a package of proposed legislation and Executive Orders prepared in response to last month’s shooting at an Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It’s being treated as a big deal by the White House as the President will be surrounded by children who wrote the White House in the wake of the Newtown shootings as well as survivors and family members of victims of the shootings. Clearly, the White House is going full bore on this initiative and it will no doubt play a big role in the State Of The Union address next month. Beyond the Executive Orders, though, which seem to cover areas such as increasing the amount of data that is shared with Federal databases and such other matters, the major parts of what the President will announce today will have to be approved by Congress. As Politico notes today, that is where things become a lot more difficult:

For all the coverage devoted to how much political capital Obama will spend on the hot-button issue and the details of what Vice President Joe Biden’s task force will come up with, the political realities of Congress have gotten short shrift. Leaders in both chambers have stalled on the issue, using the Biden commission as cover to not weigh in definitively. But even if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were to attempt to muscle through a bill — no sure thing given his own ties to the National Rifle Association and the many red-state Senate Democrats up for reelection next year — there is only the most minimal support among rank-and-file House Republicans for gun control.

Take Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach, a pair of moderate Pennsylvania Republicans from swing districts — the kind of suburban communities where gun politics post-Newtown may have changed. In separate conversations, both indicated they were interested in pursuing solutions on mental health to prevent future shootings but neither believes additional gun restrictions are the answer.

“I’m frankly more concerned about the mental health situation right now than anything else,” Dent said. “It’s very difficult to get somebody committed.”

Dent, who represents the Allentown area, noted that semi-automatic weapons are “commonly owned” in his district and beyond. “This AR-15 that they’re all talking about is one of the most popular hunting rifles in the country.”

Gerlach, who hails from suburban Philadelphia, said he isn’t seeking new curbs on firearms or ammunition.

“That’s not something, at least in my district, that’s a huge issue,” he said. “Because most people recognize that responsible gun owners, regardless of what kind of gun they have or the magazine they’re using, use them responsibly. It’s how do you keep them out of the hands of those that shouldn’t have them — that’s the key.”

Gerlach said he was open to tightening background checks, but not gun restrictions. “I’d be willing to look at [background checks] but actual bans of certain firearms just doesn’t seem to be the area we need to be looking at.”

Gerlach and Dent alone:

Other House members and senior GOP aides say the fiscal cliff and the supplemental spending bill for Hurricane Sandy has dominated the conference’s internal conversation for the past month. They said the gun issue would most likely be raised at their retreat later this week in Williamsburg, Va., and that additional pressure would very likely come with Obama’s inaugural and State of the Union speeches.

 But there are unmistakable signals that House Republicans are already looking to punt the issue to the Senate, knowing that Reid is unlikely to force a vote there on a wide-ranging bill.

“Vice President Biden is taking the lead on that as president of the Senate, and naturally it should go to the Senate first,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of the House GOP leadership. “That’s the relationship between Reid and Biden. Let them take it in the Senate, and then we’ll take up what they pass out of the Senate and we’ll look from there.”

Lankford said he was having internal conversations about what Republicans should support, with most of the talk focusing on mental health issues.

Other House Republicans are convinced Obama isn’t committed to pushing for new gun control laws and only wants the issue.

“I think all this is the president trying to do this for the far left,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee. “But I don’t think they have the votes in the Senate. It’s a political exercise for them.”

It’s not an unwise strategy, really. The Republicans control the agenda in the House, so it would be virtually impossible for any bill on gun control to even get to the Committee or Sub-Committee stage, where it could be send to die quite easily, without the Leadership wanting it to get there. If the House isn’t going to act on gun control, then it’s unlikely that the Senate will either. Time and again over the past two years, Harry Reid has made it clear that he’s not at all keen about making the Senate act on a matter that has no chance of succeeding in the House. It’s happened on budget matters and any other number of minor issues, there’s no doubt that Reid would have the same considerations in mind in this case. Notwithstanding the passions that have been raised since the Newtown shootings, gun control remains a politically divisive issue, and a particularly risky one for Democrats in certain parts of the country. As I I’ve noted before, seven of the Democratic Senate seats will be up in 2014 are in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012. One of those seats will be an open race thanks to the retirement of Jay Rockefeller, and there is wide anticipation that Republican Shelly Moore Capito will be the frontrunner for that seat. Reid is unlikely to force these Senators, and the others up for re-election, to put their necks on the line for a controversial bill that he knows isn’t going to go anywhere in the House.

There will be much attention paid to the President’s plan today and in the days and weeks to come, but when you get down to the hard work of actually trying to pass a piece of legislation, the prospects don’t look good at all. As I noted yesterday, if anything does make it through Congress, it’s likely to be something very minor and, in the end, inconsequential. The idea of an Assault Weapons Ban will remain part of Democratic rhetoric, as it has been since it expired in 2004, but it’s not going to become law any time soon.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah…I think that’s the point of going BIG.
    Obama has long realized gun control is a non-starter. Which is why he didn’t touch it in his first term.
    But Sandy Hook gives him a blunt instrument with which to pummel the opposition. Republicans will come out of this looking more obstructionist, more irrelevant, than they already do.
    The look at the context. The Fiscal Cliff deal and the Superstorm Sandy relief were both done on a bipartisan basis…the majority of Republicans voting against…voting for irrelevancy.
    Time will tell…but I think there is more going on here than you are capable of grasping.

  2. Geek, Esq. says:

    So then the House Republicans can explain to suburban voters why they as a group value AR-15s over the lives of small children.

  3. Mike says:

    Yes. The NRA has too much money that it is willing to spread around. Also, I don’t think the average citizen has any faith that the measures will accomplish anything. I wish it weren’t so but alas, this is ‘Merica. The repubs must be happy as can be b/c they have an issue that they can get on their soapbox about that might rally their base.

  4. john personna says:

    The announcement sets up a direct confrontation with the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, which is launching an advertising campaign against gun control and deploying its representatives in force on Capitol Hill.

    And at OTB!

  5. john personna says:

    A White House official said Obama had not endorsed all of the ideas put forward by Biden’s team but declined to lay out specifics on what would be announced.

    Isn’t this funny?

    Doug is making a full court press against a bill about which we all know nothing.

    All we know is that it is a bill, and the NRA, and other extremists have been told to act now, before we hear what it is.

  6. bk says:

    If you read it in Pravda-on-the-Potomac, it must be so, Virginia.

  7. scott says:

    I would be curious to see how much any of these proposals cost and how to pay for them. I would go for a tax on guns and ammo.

  8. LaMont says:

    This is the question congress will have to deal with if they do not act;

    Transcript of President Obama’s remarks on gun control.

    OBAMA:…You know, in the letter that Julia wrote me, she said “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.”

    Julia, I will try very hard. But she’s right. The most important changes we can make, depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do. Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

    And if they say no, ask them why not? Ask them what’s more important? Doing whatever it takes to get a — an A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns? Or, giving parents some piece of mind when they drop their child off to first grade?

    And as the old batman show would display – “WHAAAM”!!!

  9. LaMont says:

    Furthermore, a failure to act from congress will just play into the President’s and the democrat’s hands the closer we get to the 2014 elections. Congress, controlled by republicans, will continue to validate the perception that they are being obstructionist. This will be yet another example of it.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    No matter how modest a proposal Obama put forth, it would be DOA in the House. If it is a very modest proposal on guns? Heh. Obviously enough, this is not about getting anything passed. This is about the optics and shifting the focus. We’ll see whether it works or not.

  11. stonetools says:

    The massacre at Sandy Hook makes the coming legislative battle not just of abstract talk, but of optics. It will be difficult for Republicans to argue effectively against the photographs of innocent children, to say nothing of the children’s mothers. Doug may be underestimating the visceral impact of these optics, particularly when the other side is someone like Wayne La Pierre or some gun nut spouting crazy talk.

  12. Tom says:

    Obama cares less about our kids. It is all his world order scheme to join the UN arms treaty. Wake up you dim fools. Just wait – Obama has just begun his new kingdom of rulership – America really screwed it up this time.. Say good bye to God. Say good bye to freedom, Say good bye to American family values. Join Europe and become one with and protected by the great ruler. Good job Democrats – you won didn’t you?

  13. Tom says:

    @C. Clavin: Absolutely – It is about aligning the US with Europe under the UN Arms treaty. This is just the beginning of King Obama’s real agenda’s. It sounds a bit over the top but am I really that far from the truth?

  14. Tom says:

    @Geek, Esq.: It is not about the kids. If Obama was worried about porotecting kids (like he does his own kids with Secret Service) he would be pushing for law enforcement in every school. Obama cares less about our kids. It is all his world order scheme to join the UN arms treaty. Wake up you dim fools. Just wait – Obama has just begun his new kingdom of rulership – America really screwed it up this time.. Say good bye to God. Say good bye to freedom, Say good bye to American family values. Join Europe and become one with and protected by the great ruler. Good job Democrats – you won didn’t you?

  15. LaMont says:


    It is all his world order scheme to join the UN arms treaty. Wake up you dim fools. Just wait – Obama has just begun his new kingdom of rulership – America really screwed it up this time.. Say good bye to God. Say good bye to freedom, Say good bye to American family values. Join Europe and become one with and protected by the great ruler.

    You know it’s sad when you can no longer distinguish sarcasm from extreme rightist rhetoric!

  16. rudderpedals says:

    The ad smells desperate. Remember Moral Majority? Fallwell’s fortress was sturdy and strong, until it wasn’t. The NRA’s castle will slip into the sea eventually.

  17. Tom says:

    @stonetools: Yes but half of america sees through this ploy to take away the constitution as it is old and should be re-written as Obama would like.

  18. Tom says:

    @rudderpedals: I do not think so,,, not very easily..

  19. Veritas says:

    More fuzzy thinking. Exactly how did Conn. restrictions on firearms save the “children?” Why do gun free zones serve as hunting grounds for the insane and perverts?

    If the 2nd amendment means nothing why should the lst amendment be respected. Oh I forgot, Obamahitler doesn’t respect that either.

    Nor apparently do you.

  20. Tom says:

    @LaMont: Is it really far off from the truth???? Open your eyes dude…. See what lies under the pretty fascade…. You wont like what you find there….

  21. LaMont says:


    I can very easily argue that had that asault weapons ban were kept from being expired, the mother of the nut that killed those children, being the law abiding citizen she was, would not have had the weapon in her house that was used to kill 20 children as quickly as possible.

    It’s not about “restrictions” in and of itself as it is about continuing to pass meaningful regulations to limit the violence that does occur. After all, the 2nd admendment does cite the words “well regulated”!

  22. Rob in CT says:

    Got a coupla live ones, haven’t we?

    Poe’s Law in action?

  23. LaMont says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Got a coupla live ones, haven’t we?

    Lol… Indeed we do!

  24. LaMont says:


    Is it really far off from the truth????

    Ahh… Yeah!

  25. stonetools says:


    Are these Cd6 writealikes or are these the real thing. I suspect they are the real thing, in which case… Fresh meat!

  26. wr says:

    @Tom: “Say good bye to God”

    Are you saying that Obama is so powerful he can banish God?

    Isn’t that blasphemy?

  27. LaMont says:


    Lol… I’m afraid these are not the CD6/Stephen Colbert type of entertainment we have grown so acustom to. The delusional premises are much too extreme!

  28. stonetools says:


    One of the things that will help Obama here is that extreme rhetoric from the gun nuts will make anything Obama proposes sound like sweet reasonableness to the American people. Again, folks like Doug may underestimate the optics here.

  29. matt says:

    @LaMont: Her gun was not banned under the AWB. Your lack of knowledge about guns is appalling. Please spend a little of your time every evening studying on the subject before making policy demands. At the very least you’ll be an informed poster that can bring something to the discussion.

    This is a SAR-1 it was legal to import during the AWB

    A rule change by the ATF after the AWB expired made it illegal to import.

  30. LaMont says:


    If true then I stand corrected but it doesn’t take “every evening studying on the subject” to understand what an “assault” weapon is. Therefore (ironically), the point you make justifies a more stringent AWB! Not just an extension of it. I am not the one making policy demands – gun jerks (including the mother that had the assault weapon in her home) make them for me! It’s circumstances like this that justify the common sense needed to pass such policies. How is that for bringing something to the discussion?

  31. matt says:


    Therefore (ironically), the point you make justifies a more stringent AWB!

    Great instead of seeing this and saying “hey we should make smarter laws” your response is ‘DOUBLE DOWN ON TEH STUPIIID!!!”..

    The concept of an AWB is doomed to failure because people are going off superficial things. The reality is that down behind the plastic and the tacticool the guts of the gun are no different from regular semi-automatic hunting rifles (which are used A LOT). So we get stuff like the AWB that bans or limits you to a certain number of scary things like pistol grips or bayonet lugs..

  32. stonetools says:


    Precise definition of what is an assault weapon is THE most important part of this debate-far more than any deaths that these weapons might cause, if you go by the number of posts Matt makes on the topic. It almost seems that calling an AR15 an “assault rifle” is a worse sin than using one to kill people .
    Matt’s vehement defense of the AR15’s non-assault rifle status is of course entirely independent of his concern that the the government might regulate access to his favorite deadly toy.

  33. JKB says:

    60 percent of young Americans plan to purchase firearms, study reveals

    Lawless told Campus Reform on Tuesday that in her view the findings were proof that President Obama should move swiftly, and without the permission of Congress if necessary, in order limit the availability of firearms.

    “The next generation plans on owning guns, so if we want to avoid the tragedies that we’ve seen… we obviously need to move quickly and if an executive order is the way to do it, then that is the way the to do it,” she said.

    Lawless said the study was not prompted by the Aurora shooting, pointing to the fact that the study focused on a broad range of political opinions among young people which included firearms.

    Students who identified as Democrats were twice as likely to fear gun violence as those who were not, the study found. Only 33 percent of the respondents who were questioned were raised in households where guns were owned.

    I like the argument to rush so that the kids can’t be free. Sorry, Progs, the kids aren’t as stupid as you tried to make them.

  34. matt says:

    @stonetools: I don’t own an AR-15.. If you’re going to troll go to 4chan.

  35. LaMont says:


    When it comes to keeping weapons designed to inflict as much damage as possible to as many people as possible as quickly as possible off the streets, what in the hell is the difference between “make smarter” and “more stringent”? By your own response (if true), it is clear that that weapon should have also been banned. In this case, a smarter policy would also be more stringent! Your obsessive need to distinguish the difference between technical terms just falls flat regarding the topic of assault weapons. It is what it is! When it comes to guns, especially in this country, stringent is always smart. That is obvious! The only people that are “DOUBLING DOWN ON TEH STUPIIID!!!” are the people that try to argue that ANY effort (no matter how lenient) to keep these guns off the streets is worthless. Technicality need not apply here, only common sense!

  36. matt says:

    @LaMont: So how would you write the law? Words matter and banning “weapons designed to inflict as much damage as possible” isn’t enforceable as a law. Automatic assault rifles are already banned or heavily regulated and those would meet your definition. They are also haven’t been used in ac rime in decades.

    Now as for “assault weapons” they are used in >1% of murders. So while you might get off on trying to ban those it’s actually handguns that are the “weapons inflicting as most damage” in society right now. Even shotguns are used more in crime then rifles. Don’t you find it a little weird that you’re focusing hardcore on something used in the deaths of >50 people while I’m worried about the things used in +4000 deaths a year? Don’t you think diminishing returns means we should focus on the low hanging fruit or maybe the reasons behind the violence?

  37. LaMont says:

    What a weak argument! As if human lives are so irrelevant that you can justify certain types of weapons on the probability that it will not be involved with not much more than 1% of all related gun deaths. Are you seriously trying to make that argument? If you’re asking me what I think of handguns or shotguns (or guns period in this country) you are asking the wrong person – you WILL not like what I would have to say and I would likely offend you! However, to get back on the subject of mass killings, it does not matter that it happens only >1% of the time. It is a disgrace ANY time it happens becuase their is no purpose outside the military to own one. Weapons designed to inflict as much damage as possible as quickly as possible is and can very much be enforced as a law. Much in the same way that attaining “weapons of mass destruction” are illegal for any individual in this country to own. How so, by a series of smart/stringent laws that make it imposssible to even buy the ingredients (in large scale) that make these weapons. So obviously, the policies we have today are not nearly as stringent as they could be. And to say otherwise is just being stubborn. Just give it up! There is absolutely no argument that you can make beside the 2nd amendment (and even that can be argued) that will justify assault weapons (or any type of gun for that matter as you so dutifully acknowledged) in this country.

  38. matt says:

    @LaMont: You do realize that the vast majority of guns that are labeled assault weapons are just hunting rifles dressed up?


    That’s why the last Assault Weapon Ban focused on cosmetic features like pistol grips and bayonet lugs.

  39. LaMont says:


    And again – smarter policy gives way to more stringent laws. For the last time, Technicalities need not apply here, only common sense!

  40. matt says:

    @LaMont: It matters greatly as you either ban cosmetic features or you ban large swaths of hunting guns.