Skip to main content

Countdown to new wave in gun violence battle

By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 3:08 PM EST, Sun January 13, 2013
  • NEW: "This is not your father's NRA," Sen. Chris Murphy says
  • NRA president predicts an assault weapons ban won't pass
  • Schumer calls on retailers to suspend sales of assault-style rifles
  • A federal task force on gun violence will present proposals by Tuesday

What proposals do you want to see to reduce gun violence? Share them at CNN iReport, Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

(CNN) -- When a set of recommendations to reduce gun violence hits President Barack Obama's desk on Tuesday, it will trigger a new stage in a decisive political battle consuming Washington. And it will show just how much America may have changed in the wake of last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

The proposals from a White House task force may include some with broad support on issues involving mental health. But one of the most intense flashpoints is already known: The group, overseen by Vice President Joe Biden, is expected to support reinstating an assault weapons ban.

"I would say that the likelihood is they will not be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," National Rifle Association President David Keene said Sunday.

But the powerful gun rights lobbying group is gearing up for a fight, which, CNN has learned, will include an ad campaign.

"When a president takes all the power of his office and is willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions," Keene said on "State of the Union."

White House eyes assault weapons ban
NRA president on assault weapon ban

Keene said he also does not believe Congress will pass a ban on high-capacity magazines.

The NRA argues that such bans won't help stop gun violence and that they infringe on Second Amendment rights.

But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said the NRA's prediction is wrong. "I think that this issue is going to continue to move," he told "State of the Union," speaking from Newtown.

"The NRA does not represent gun owners anymore. This is not your father's NRA. It represents gun manufacturers," Murphy said.

While the NRA does receive large sums of money from gun makers, Keene insisted that manufacturers are "not our constituency."

"Our constituency is twofold," he said. "It's the American people who want to own guns and use them legally, and it's the Second Amendment itself."

Biden told reporters last week, amid meetings with a wide array of groups, that he had never heard so much support for "the need to do something about high-capacity magazines."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is pushing a ban similar to one that expired in 2004, has said she believes it will make it through Congress.

"All of the things that society regulates, but we can't touch guns? That's wrong," Feinstein said in December after 27 people, including 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were killed in Newtown by a gunman who then shot himself to death.

Numerous mass shootings have involved high-capacity weapons.

Obama set up the task force and instructed the group to have proposals by the end of January. Biden said last week he will have a set of recommendations ready for the president by Tuesday.

While the NRA, with 4.2 million members, holds a great deal of sway, it faces a country deeply concerned about the kinds of weapons that have been used in numerous mass killings. It's also facing a new foe: a political action committee created by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.

Giffords was shot in the head in a mass shooting two years ago that killed six people.

"With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby," the two vowed in a USA Today op-ed last week.

Obama made clear Saturday that he's ready for a fight over how to respond to gun violence.

In his weekly radio address, he gave a list of challenges ahead, including protecting "our children from the horrors of gun violence."

"These, too, will be difficult missions for America. But they must be met," he said.

The Obama administration will try to pass an assault weapons ban, an administration official said Friday.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, told CNN he believes that a ban on assault weapons alone, "in the political reality that we have today, will not go anywhere." A strong advocate for Second Amendment rights with an "A" rating from the NRA, he has expressed openness to changing laws but argues that other aspects of society should change as well. "It has to be a comprehensive approach," he argued Sunday on "State of the Union."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, on Sunday called on the nation's largest gun retailers to "participate in a temporary moratorium on selling assault-style rifles until Congress has considered legislation to reduce gun violence," his office said in a statement.

"Since the Sandy Hook massacre, sales of assault-style rifles have skyrocketed and are poised to grow even further during an upcoming 'Gun Appreciation Day' organized by extreme pro-gun activists," the statement said.

The group behind the event, scheduled for January 19, uses its website to encourage Americans to "go to your local gun store, gun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your 'Hands off my Guns' sign to send a loud and clear message."

Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods retailers, suspended sales of certain semi-automatic rifles nationwide after the Newtown massacure.

Another likely point of contention between gun rights activists and those supporting stricter gun control is a call for universal background checks.

Biden has said several groups that his task force met with support such checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase through private sales.

Keene has also told CNN that he does not support instituting background checks for purchases at gun shows.

He said Sunday the NRA does support the idea that people who are ruled mentally incompetent should be listed as not allowed to purchase firearms.

In the interview Sunday, Keene complained that Biden's panel didn't really listen to what the NRA had to say.

Despite promises that the task force had not reached conclusions before hearing from all sides, "the conclusions were reached," he argued. "We suspected all they wanted to be able to do was to say he had talked to us, and now they were going to go forward to do what they wanted to do."

Another question facing Biden's panel is how to tackle images of shootings in entertainment.

His task force met with leaders of the the film, TV and video game industries.

It's unknown what the task force may suggest as a response to what Obama has described as a culture that often "glorifies guns and violence."

Meanwhile, across the country, Americans of all stripes are debating the issue in person, in town hall meetings, and in social media.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones, the president and acting CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, discuss the lethal mix of domestic violence and guns.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Gun rights and gun control advocates largely agree there should be restrictions on mentally ill people obtaining firearms. The case of Myron Fletcher illustrates how difficult it is to put that into practice.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Six months after a gunman burst into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and slaughtered 20 children and killed six others, promises of stricter national gun control laws remain largely unfulfilled.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Next time there's a mass shooting, don't jump to blame the National Rifle Association and lax gun laws. Look first at the shooter and the mental health services he did or didn't get, and the commitment laws in the state where the shooting took place.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Sat June 8, 2013
The sign at the door of the Colt factory displays a gun with a slash through it: "No loaded or unauthorized firearms beyond this point." Understandable for workers at a plant, but also a bit ironic, considering one of the largest arsenals in America lies just beyond.
updated 7:18 AM EDT, Sat June 8, 2013
Much attention has been paid to the defeat in Congress of proposals to ban assault weapons and expand background checks for firearm purchases.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sat June 29, 2013
Morgan Spurlock's "Inside Man" gives CNN viewers an inside and in-depth look at the issue of firearms -- as viewed from behind the counter of a gun store. Here are five things to know about the debate.
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
The Supreme Court continued its recent hands-off approach on gun control, refusing to accept a challenge to New Jersey's restrictions on carrying weapons in public.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
The Senate defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
As Congress grapples with major gun control legislation proposals, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers and children write about the people they loved and lost to gun violence and how it changed their lives.
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
Hear from both sides of the gun debate as opinions clash.
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed May 1, 2013
It was a bit awkward the first time Kate Daggett asked the question.
updated 9:41 AM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
Many Americans and lawmakers are in favor of continuing or expanding background checks on gun purchases, but few understand how the checks work.
updated 3:35 PM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
Still stinging from the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook, Connecticut lawmakers approved what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Fri March 29, 2013
It took fewer than five minutes for Adam Lanza to squeeze off 154 rounds, upending life in Newtown, Connecticut, and triggering a renewed national debate over gun control.
Who should get them? Join the gun control debate and share your perspective on CNN iReport.
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
Before having children, she was a firm believer that guns were dangerous. Now this mother of three has a different perspective.
updated 6:54 PM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
In the biggest fight over firearms since December's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, gun-control advocates are poised to notch a victory in an unlikely place.
A former drug addict turned anti-violence crusader, and a man who lost his father in a temple shooting. These are just two of many in the conversation.
updated 1:22 PM EST, Fri February 1, 2013
At a town hall that brought all sides of the gun debate together, was there a consensus? Sort of.
updated 10:51 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
The federal background check system for gun buyers didn't stop a mentally ill man from buying a gun, which he used to kill his mother.
updated 7:37 PM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
In disputes over the future of gun laws, people espousing different positions often literally don't understand each other.