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Why Republicans defy public opinion in gun-control fight (+video)

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(Read caption) Guns Against America
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To the surprise of precisely no one within the Beltway, the Senate's top Republican on Saturday told people across his home state of Kentucky that – if he has his way – President Obama's gun-control proposals won't go anywhere.   

In a taped phone call sent to Kentucky gun owners, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) said: “Know that I will be doing everything in my power as Senate Republican leader, fighting tooth and nail, to protect your Second Amendment rights, so that law-abiding citizens such as yourself can properly and adequately protect yourself, your family, and your country.” 

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama unveiled three proposals that he urged Congress to pass: mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

National public opinion polls show majority support for all three measures. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 85 percent support for background checks, 55 percent support a ban on assault weapons, and 54 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Perhaps surprisingly, these numbers hold even in red states. A Georgia poll by Atlanta TV station WXIA, for example, mirrored the Pew poll almost exactly.

But don't expect a backlash against Senator McConnell if he blocks Obama's plans. After all, those aren't the numbers that he will be looking at.

He will note that only 44 percent of Republicans back a ban on assault weapons, and Republicans similarly line up against the magazine ban. He will also note that, among those who say protecting gun rights is more important than controlling guns, nearly one-quarter have contributed to a gun-rights group. Among those who think gun control is more important, only 5 percent have contributed to gun-control groups.

In other words, the gun-rights folks are far more engaged. And that will matter tremendously to McConnell, in particular.

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