POLITICS

Reid, red-state Democrats may stop Obama's firearms initiative

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest,Gun Control

The biggest obstacle President Obama's sweeping gun control proposals face isn't House Republicans. It's the president's fellow Democrats in the Senate, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid, a red-state Democrat and gun owner once described by the NRA as "a true champion of the Second Amendment."

Obama on Wednesday called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips, among other things. But Reid, of Nevada, who controls which bills reach the Senate floor, isn't rushing to hold a vote on those proposals. And other red-state Democrats facing re-election in 2014 are in no hurry to debate gun limits, either.

"This is a very interesting and tough spot for Reid," Nevada political commentator Jon Ralston told The Washington Examiner. "My sense is that he doesn't know exactly what he is going to do."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, meanwhile, is unlikely to take up any measure that limits guns or ammunition.

Boehner upped the pressure on Reid on Wednesday when his office announced that the House will "take a look" at only those gun measures passed by the Senate.

"Boehner wants to, and will, stay as far away from this issue as possible," Democratic strategist Doug Schoen said.

Reid is under intense pressure from liberal Democrats to put an assault weapons ban up for a Senate vote. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., authored a proposal similar to Obama's plan that would renew and expand the expired 1994 assault weapons ban to include 120 types of guns. Feinstein's proposal also would bar the sale of high-capacity gun clips, bayonet mounts and flash suppressors.

Shortly after Obama's announced the most sweeping gun control initiative in a generation Wednesday, Senate Democrats began calling on Congress to take up the gun ban.

"We absolutely should move to ban assault weapons and prohibit high-capacity ammunition clips," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a co-sponsor of the Feinstein measure.

Reid, however, suggested in recent days he is wary of taking up an assault weapons ban when it has virtually no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House.

"I'm not going to go through a bunch of these gyrations just to say we've done something," Reid told PBS.

Many political strategists believe Congress can not pass an assault weapons ban or a limit on ammunition. An expansion of background checks for gun buyers has a better chance of passing, they said.

They point to Reid's desire to spare fellow Democrats from voting on a measure that could cost them at election time.

There are 21 Democratic Senate seats up for grabs in 2014, including those held by senators from the pro-gun states of Arkansas, Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana, Colorado, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Other top Senate Democrats also signaled a desire to not to rush into a vote on banning guns.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a gun-owning Vermont Democrat, announced he will hold hearings on proposals to reduce gun violence -- but not for two weeks.

"Leahy is slow-walking this through the committee process," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said. "He has a gun range in his back yard."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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