Ban on assault weapons will likely be facing a tough climb

  • Article by: SEAN SULLIVAN , Washington Post
  • Updated: January 16, 2013 - 10:18 PM

President Obama announced a sweeping slate of new gun control proposals designed to curb mass violence. Here's a look at the larger proposals that will require action from Congress and our best educated guess of how likely they are to pass, based on recent polling and what lawmakers have said:

BAN ON ASSAULT WEAPONS AND HIGH-CAPACITY AMMUNITION MAGAZINES

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is set to introduce such a ban in the Senate, but its odds of passage don't look that promising. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have expressed doubts, while conservative Democrats the president will need also have offered reservations. The National Rifle Association opposes such a ban.

What polling shows: A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday showed 58 percent of adults and 59 percent of registered voters support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. A Pew poll released the same day showed 55 percent of Americans support a ban. But the issue divides Republicans and Democrats, something that especially matters in the Republican-controlled House.

Odds of passage: Less than 50 percent

Requiring universal background checks

There is far greater overall consensus around the issue of strengthening background checks by requiring them in firearm sales at gun shows and in other private transactions, to end the so-called "gun show loophole."

What polling shows: Eighty-eight percent of Americans said they support a law requiring background checks in sales at gun shows, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll, including 89 percent of Republicans.

Odds of passage: 75 percent or better

CONFIRMING B. TODD JONES AS ATF DIRECTOR

Among the steps Obama is taking by executive action is the nomination of Jones -- the U.S. attorney for Minnesota and acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- to head the agency, which has not had a permanent head in six years. The Senate would have to confirm Jones.

What polling shows: There is no recent polling on Jones specifically.

Odds: Unclear given that the Senate has not confirmed the nominees for ATF director for the past six years.

SCHOOL SAFETY

Obama is proposing enhancing the physical security of schools and better preparing them to respond to outbreaks of mass violence. The proposal includes a call to put as many as 1,000 trained police officers and school counselors on the job. The administration notes that not every school will want the additional resources, and the choice will be left to them. It is also calling on Congress to provide $30 million in one-time grants to states to help school districts shore up emergency plans.

What polling shows: Overall, few Americans seem to disagree with the idea that school safety must be beefed up. The differences arise when it comes to the specifics. The Washington Post-ABC News poll showed, for example, that most support putting armed guards in every school -- the idea the NRA has put forth. The administration does not want to mandate security; it is leaving choices up to schools. It is calling for more funding for emergency management.

Odds of passage: Very good

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