Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who's leading the push to restore an assault weapon ban, acknowledged on Sunday that the effort faces tough odds to pass Congress and she blamed the nation's largest gun-rights group.
Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thursday introduced a bill that would prohibit 157 specific weapons and ammunition magazines that have more than 10 rounds. The White House and fellow Democrats are skeptical the measure is going anywhere, given lawmakers who are looking toward re-election might fear pro-gun voters and the National Rifle Association.
"This has always been an uphill fight. This has never been easy. This is the hardest of the hard," Feinstein said.
"I think I can get it passed because the American people are very much for it," Feinstein said of the measure that follows a similar measure she championed into law 1994 but expired a decade later.
She acknowledged, however, the NRA's political clout.
"They come after you. They put together large amounts of money to defeat you," Feinstein said.
She also said the group was a pawn of those who make weapons.
"The NRA is venal. ... The NRA has become an institution of gun manufacturers," she said.
The NRA disputed her characterization.
"The NRA is a grass-roots organization. We have more than 4 million dues-paying members and tens of millions of supporters all across this country. Our political power comes from them. Decent and logical people would understand that," spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to take up the proposal on Wednesday and hear from the NRA's CEO and senior vice president, Wayne LaPierre. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in an assassination attempt, also plans to testify.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, said Congress should focus on the causes of violence and not the weapons alone.
"We need to look beyond just recycling failed policies of the past. ... Let's go beyond just this debate and make sure we get deeper. What's our policy on mental illness? What's going on in our culture that produces this kind of thing? You know, we need to have that kind of a discussion and debate," Ryan said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., also urged lawmakers to consider mental health issues.
"When I hear some of this conversation, I think that we're looking at symptoms, we're not looking at the root causes," she said. "And I understand the senator's passion for this, but I got to tell you, an assault ban is not the answer to helping keep people safe."
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who favors the assault weapons ban, expressed skepticism that it would be returned to law.
"It's probably a heavy lift in Congress," he said.
In the wake of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. In December, President Barack Obama has pushed to expanded background checks, restoring the assault weapons ban and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. But members of his own party may thwart his hopes.
Feinstein appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union." Ryan was on NBC's "Meet the Press." Blackburn and Kelly were on CBS.
President Barack Obama says he wants police from three communities that have experienced mass shootings and across the country to help convince Congress to pass gun legislation.
Obama said no group is more important than law enforcement in the gun debate. He said he recognizes the issue "elicits a lot of passion all across the country" but that Congress will pay attention to police.
He urged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, limit high capacity magazines and require universal background checks.
The president spoke as he met at the White House with the heads of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, members of his Cabinet and chiefs that responded to the worst shootings of 2012 in Aurora, Colo., Oak Creek, Wis., and Newtown, Conn.
Obama: Gun control supporters must listen more
(CBS) President Obama said gun control proponents "have to do a little more listening" to second-amendment advocates in an interview with The New Republic, noting that he has a "profound respect" for hunting as a tradition and urging those who support stricter gun laws not to dismiss that tradition "out of hand."
Asked if he has ever shot a gun, the president said, "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time. ... Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake."
"Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas," he said.
"So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months," Mr. Obama explained. "And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."
In the wake of the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six school administrators dead, Mr. Obama proposed a raft of new restrictions on firearms, including a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons and a restriction on the size of ammunition magazines. Gun-rights groups, in turn, have accused the president of trampling the constitutional rights of American gun-owners.
Mr. Obama's comments come amidst a concerted push from the administration to enact the president's agenda to reduce gun violence. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired the task force responsible for generating the policy ideas that Mr. Obama has proposed, traveled to Richmond, Va., to consult with experts and public officials on the way forward.
"We talked about the need to expand mental health capacity across the country. We talked about access and we talked about resources," Biden said. "But most the focus was on, what are the recommendations from these professionals about how we can detect earlier than later those folks who have the propensity" to commit acts of gun violence.
Biden said that the nation "has an obligation to act" after witnessing "What happened up in Newtown - beautiful little babies, six and seven years old, riddled - riddled - with bullets."
And "with the help of our colleagues in the House and Senate, we're going to get something done," he promised.
The first major congressional action on gun violence since the president unveiled his proposals is scheduled for January 30, when advocates on either side of the issue will testify at a hearing of the Senate Judicary Committee entitled "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?"
The hearing promises to be a high-profile affair, with testimony expected from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, whose call for armed guards in schools sparked a fierce debate with proponents of gun control.
Also scheduled to testify is Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago.
Father of Conn. victim urges enforcement of laws
(AP) -- The father of a 6-year-old victim of the Newtown elementary school shooting says Connecticut's existing gun laws need to be more strictly enforced and the nation needs a return to civility.
Mark Mattioli appeared Monday before a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre, which left 20 first-grade students and six educators dead. Mattioli's son, James, was among the children killed.
Mattioli says he believes in "simple, few gun laws" and that there are "more than enough on the books."
But he said they're not being properly enforced.
Mattioli received a standing ovation.
Hundreds have turned out to testify at the hearing. A line stretched outside as the public waited to pass through a metal detector at the Legislative Office Building entrance.