Of the four things President Obama urged Congress to pass at his gun control speech Thursday, background checks seem like the least unpopular. While most of Obama's proposed gun regulations are polling well with the public, they are not nearly as popular in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has suggested he didn't see the value in passing legislation he didn't think could pass the House. House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman said Wednesday that committees would "review" Obama's proposals, "And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that." And those are the merely noncommittal.
On Fox & Friends Thursday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Obama was just using the Newtown shooting to do something he'd wanted all along. Rubio explained:
"The impetus for all of this was the shooting in Connecticut, right? That's what led to this. And yet nothing he’s proposing would have prevented Connecticut... This is stuff they've always wanted to do, and now this has created the political climate to pursue it."
Speaking to Bill O'Reilly the night before, Rubio said, "I think that the president – and he doesn’t have the guts to admit it – is not a believer of the Second Amendment."
An assault weapons ban, as well as a limit on the size of magazines, doesn't seem to have enough fans to pass. Red-state Democrats who had seemed open to gun control were not that thrilled with Obama's proposals. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who recently said you don't need a 10-round magazine to hunt deer, told reporters he would have preferred it if Obama had created some kind of commission to study gun violence. He said he would consider the details of Obama's proposals, Roll Call reports. Montana Sen. Max Baucus sounded skeptical, too, saying, "Before passing new laws, we need a thoughtful debate that respects responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Montana instead of one-size-fits all directives from Washington." The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that gun-rights advocates in Montana "still have not forgiven Baucus for backing the 1994 federal assault-weapons ban." Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, told The Hill, "There’s no confusion on Max’s part what heavy sledding he would have in 2014 if he voted for gun control now."
So what might actually get done? New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement, "If you look at the combination of likelihood of passage and effectiveness of curbing gun crime, universal background checks is at the sweet spot." Republican Rep. Robert Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, seemed to agree. Goodlatte said he opposes an assault weapons ban, he said on C-SPAN, "But in terms of background checks, in terms of keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals and people who have serious mental health difficulties, we want to do that, and we would take a close look at that." While this would be only a part of what the president proposed, as The Washington Post's Brad Plumer explains, crime experts think universal background checks could potentially have a large impact on crime. As much as 80 percent of guns used in crime were purchased on the secondary market.