According to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, almost 9 in 10 Americans support universal background checks. That’s far higher than the slim majority of Americans who favor bans on assault-weapon sales or restrictions on magazine size, according to the same poll.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr. Obama's proposal to require background checks for all gun buyers drew almost no criticism from Republican lawmakers. Currently, gun sales from so-called “private sellers,” which make up about 4 in 10 firearms transactions, don’t require the buyer to pass a background check.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D) of California, chairman of the House’s Democratic task force on gun violence, told reporters on Monday he had spoken to several Republican members who were in favor of universal background checks.
But beyond universal background checks, the rest of the president’s proposals look as if they could be in for a hard slog.
Senate Democrats vow to fight for the president. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told students at Georgetown University’s Law Center on Wednesday that he would begin a series of hearings on gun control two weeks from Wednesday. That would mark the first congressional action on the subject.
“I think it is an urgent situation and that’s why the first hearings of anybody, House or Senate, will be held by me,” Senator Leahy said. “I would point out that I have a track record of getting legislation passed.”
Crucially, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said in a statement Wednesday he was “committed” to Senate consideration of gun-violence legislation early in 2013.
But Democrats will need at least five Senate Republicans to avoid a filibuster. And when Republicans look at the options laid out by the president, they don’t like much of what they see.