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Americans Favor Tougher Gun Laws, but Talks Stall Over Background Checks

By    |   Wednesday, 03 April 2013 11:28 AM

As President Obama steps up his efforts to build more support for tougher gun-control measures, a new survey shows that a strong majority of Americans are with him in the fight.

According to national Marist poll conducted for MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, 60 percent of Americans, including 83 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of gun owners, and 37 percent of Republicans, want the laws covering guns sales to be tougher.

The results of the survey of 1,219 respondents taken in late March are similar to the findings of a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in February in which 61 percent of Americans backed more stringent gun laws.

The Morning Joe/Marist survey also found that 87 percent of Americans support background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows, and 59 percent are in favor of legislation that would ban the sale of assault weapons.

Still, a proposal to expand federal background checks for gun purchases could be a major sticking point when the Senate debates Democratic-sponsored gun control legislation later this month. Most Republican senators oppose the measure and several have threatened a filibuster to prevent passage of the legislation.

The checks are currently required only for sales by federally licensed dealers, which reportedly account for 60 percent of gun purchases.

While many gun control advocates insist that background checks are the single most important part of any legislation, lawmakers who support gun rights say they are ineffective and would create a national registry of gun owners, a view pushed by the National Rifle Association.

Referring to the December massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn., NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre even went so far in February to warn gun owners that “when another tragic ‘opportunity’ presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.”

President Obama promised after the Newtown shootings to use all of his power to enact tougher gun control measures. In keeping with that promise, he hit the road again Wednesday, travelling to Denver to meet with local law enforcement officials and community leaders. He will be Connecticut on Monday.

But on Capitol Hill, many Republicans complain that they have not heard directly from the president on the issue.

Months of negotiations between a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Charles Schumer of New York, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have failed to reach any compromise on background checks. Coburn’s support is considered crucial to persuading other GOP senators.

In addition to the NRA, other groups that oppose new gun laws, though, are pushing hard to block the legislation. The Heritage Foundation reportedly said on Tuesday that votes on the gun proposals would be crucial to earning its support in the future and urged legislators to vote against what it called “feel good” legislation.

“We have always said that this would be hard,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday, according to The Times.

“We remain engaged in conversations with the Senate and those senators who are interested in forging a bipartisan compromise on measures to reduce gun violence,” he added.

Democrats are also expected to propose an assault weapons ban, but it has little if any chance of passing in the Senate.

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As President Obama steps up his efforts to build more support for tougher gun-control measures, a new survey shows that a strong majority of Americans are with him in the fight.
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 11:28 AM
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