About a half-hour into a gun violence prevention conversation between Connecticut governor Dan Malloy and Center for American Progress president and CEO Neera Tanden Tuesday afternoon at CAP headquarters in Washington, D.C., Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, walked into the room and delivered the bad news for those who hadn’t heard: The assault weapons ban was dead.
“I think everybody is aware of the announcement that Sen. Feinstein made today that the likelihood of an assault weapons ban passing Congress is pretty slim, and she acknowledged that today. But she raised that issue and I think it was an important issue to raise and it needs to be talked about. It also heightens the exposure to this conversation,” said Thompson.
In a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday, Feinstein learned that he would not include her Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 because Feinstein could only get 40 votes out of 60 needed. The assault weapons ban could end up as an amendment to the base bill, but that would mean an even tougher road for the legislation, which enjoys broad support everywhere but Congress — the White House backs the assault weapons ban along with major gun control, medical, law enforcement, and religious organizations. Also, poll after poll shows a majority of Americans back the assault weapons ban. The high-capacity magazines ban, which has similar broad support, could also be removed from the base bill and become an amendment.
Thompson did provide hope for President Obama’s other two major gun safety proposals — universal background checks and a federal statute to prohibit gun trafficking and increase penalties for straw purchases.
Malloy joked that there is “near-universal support of universal background checks,” and Thompson followed up with a reminder that 91 percent of Americans support universal background checks, which is more than like Italian food, capitalism, and vacations.
Thompson warned, however, that lawmakers on Capitol Hill don’t respond to polling as much as they respond to direct action from their constituents.
“The bigger issue is regular rank-and-file voters not speaking out in their districts — calling the office of their member of Congress, writing, emailing, whatever it might be….until people start hearing a lot at home, the poll numbers support what we’re doing, but I don’t think that they influence members of Congress to move.”