House Democrats Gun-Shy on Guns?

Photograph by Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hold a news conference on banning high-capacity clips in the Capitol on Dec. 19, 2012.

As House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California led her colleagues in calling for restoring the assault weapons ban and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, she was asked about why she didn’t take such actions when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress from 2009-11.

Pelosi said the Senate didn’t have the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, and she wasn’t going to have the House pass a bill that wouldn’t become law and could cost many of her members their seats.

She spoke from experience: Thanks in part to support from the National Rifle Association, Republicans ended 40 years of House Democratic control in 1994 after Congress did vote to ban assault weapons.

“We wanted the members to be here, to continue to make the fight, so that when there was a prospect of success, they would be here, rather than being cleared out by the NRA,” Pelosi said, “We all saw that happen when we lost in 1994.”

Democrats claim the killings of  20 young children in Newtown, Connecticut, have altered the debate of past years.

`We think, we hope, we believe and we are working to make sure that this carnage has changed the equation,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban.

They’re also using different arguments. No longer is the focus solely on guns; at yesterday’s press conference, Democrats also acknowledged the need to look at societal violence such as video games and mental health treatment.

`It’s the reality,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. “It’s a part of the problem.”


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