WHITE HOUSE — After gun control legislation was soundly defeated in the U.S. Senate last week, President Barack Obama said the votes were only “round one” in the fight to reduce gun violence. But some Americans are skeptical that there will be a round two.
Despite the political setback, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday the gun control campaign will go on.
“Well, as I said before, I don't have a legislative strategy to lay out to you today. But there will be a round two and there will be a continued effort by this administration,” Carney said.
No decision has been announced on when or even whether the White House will try again to push gun control legislation through Congress.
In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan bill requiring stricter background checks for gun buyers has been introduced. Democrat Mike Thompson, chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, sponsored the measure, along with Republican Peter King.
But the Republican-led House is likely to be even less receptive to gun control legislation than the Democratic-controlled Senate, where last week’s bills failed to gain the 60 votes needed for passage.
Thompson said the political realities of the situation were made clear to him when he asked a Republican lawmaker to add his name to the legislation as a co-author.
“He said, ‘I will vote for it, but I do not want to co-author.’ And I asked him, I said, ‘Do you know how many people in your district support this?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I saw the poll.’ He said, ‘93 percent in my district support this.’ I said, ‘And you do not want to co-author it?’ He said, ‘Not one of them have called me,’” Thompson said.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and other gun owners’ groups have spent heavily to defeat gun control initiatives and mobilized their members.
Michael Hammond, legal adviser for the gun rights group Gun Owners of America, says the lobbying effort strikes fear into lawmakers.
“What they have reason to be afraid of is 100,000,000 American gun owners, that when we say, ‘Here is what the situation is,’ that millions of Americans will get on the phones and not get off the phones until they have made it clear to their senators that they value the Second Amendment,” Hammond said.
Hammond says his group has targeted 15 Democratic senators, up for re-election in 2014, who voted for the doomed Senate gun bill.
At the same time, public support for gun control legislation appears to have slipped since the killing of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.
A new public opinion poll by USA Today shows that only 49 percent of Americans surveyed favor new gun control laws, and President Obama is considering options outside Capitol Hill.
With the defeat of the legislative package, the president said he will pursue executive actions designed to reduce gun violence.
“Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities. We are going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system. We are going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns, so it can do its job. We are going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools,” Obama said.
And as he has done before, Obama is asking Americans to put pressure on their lawmakers to back any future gun violence bills.