Lawmakers have cowered before the gun lobby ever since 1994, when Democrats took huge losses because the National Rifle Association singled out those who voted for the "Brady bill" (a background check for gun purchasers at federally licensed dealers) and a ban on assault-style weapons. The scare was reinforced in 2000, when the NRA targeted Al Gore, who lost his home state of Tennessee in his bid for the White House.
Reasonable steps to reduce gun violence will never be taken if Democrats, Republicans, and the president don't stand up to the NRA. They can steel themselves with this knowledge: Even though polls show the country split on the broad subject of gun control, when you ask Americans to consider individual restrictive measures, they support them.
For instance, 87 percent approve of criminal background checks for all gun purchases, even those at gun shows – which are not currently covered by federal law, but which should be. This was the finding of a 2008 poll done for a bipartisan coalition of mayors who support more restrictions on guns. Another large majority, 82 percent, support limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons, according to a 2007 University of Chicago poll. A 2011 poll for the bipartisan mayors group shows that 58 percent approve of a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines (so does former Vice President Dick Cheney, by the way).