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Senate Democrats unveil assault weapons ban. Can it win any GOP support?

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Some of the opposition to the Democratic legislation may be purely partisan. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans surveyed said they supported a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, a Washington Post/ABC poll found in January before the president recommended just such a ban. Just under half of those surveyed supported a ban on assault weapons.

But in a Post/ABC poll taken after the White House’s recommendations were revealed, only 21 percent of Republicans said they found the president’s proposals favorable, giving Republican lawmakers scant reason to go along with the bill. According to the same poll, only a slim majority (51 percent) of independents approve of the president’s offer.

(More than 3 in 4 Democrats surveyed approve of the package, which includes several other measures like universal background checks for gun purchases that all receive higher public support than the assault weapons ban.)

Opponents of the assault weapons ban raise questions about its efficacy. A RAND Corporation analysis of research on gun control legislation found, at best, an indirect link between the 10-year assault weapons ban beginning in 1994 and a corresponding drop in the US murder rate. In general, RAND found, crafting gun legislation to impact violence in the United States would be a tall order.

“The vast number of guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 270 million — raises significant questions,” RAND scholars concluded, “about the time frame over which the nation can reasonably expect new policies to have an effect, the gains that can be achieved in the short run, and the equity of the distribution of burden that any restriction on gun access entails.”

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