You Realize That Gun Control Needs to Pass a Republican House, Right?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 16 2013 10:35 AM

You Realize That Gun Control Needs to Pass a Republican House, Right?

Before President Obama speaks, here's my latest piece: A look at the only gun control vote that'll matter. Any bill will need the support of some number of House Republicans. Some of them are sounding open to reform. (The overheated panic about possible Obama executive orders probably obscures this.) But what are they willing to pass?

The dodging is hardest to pull off. On Tuesday, House Republicans generally held back questions about the known Biden proposals by saying they had to wait to see them in print. But they were very sympathetic. “I use an acid test,” said Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell. “If this was my children, my beautiful grandchildren, would I have the same view I have now?” He wrestled with it; he was cautious of “passing a bill just to say” that Congress had Done Something. “I’m a data-driven person and I’m looking for as much good counsel on how we can responsibly reduce gun violence.”
This is a common line—intentional or not, it creates a loophole. There’s obviously little hard data on how, for example, the existence of extended magazines has affected gun violence. But there is extensive reporting on the circumstances of recent shootings. If a proposed gun law would not have prevented that specific shooting, a Republican can say that it wouldn’t work at all. “What massacre occurred smack in the middle of the assault weapons ban?” asked South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy. It was a rhetorical question, a reference to the Columbine shootings. That was his point.

Read on. Yesterday's Sandy funding vote was the second this year -- the first in this new Congress -- that passed with a minority of Republican votes. I assume that tough spending bills are easier to "break" the GOP on than gun bills, because the cultural and lobbying factors behind the gun law status quo are so strong. But that's something to watch.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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