Back From Recess, Congress Preps For Gun Legislation Fight

Published On : 4/7/2013 8:33 AM
By : Ailsa Chang
From : NPR
Categories : Nation, Politics
The U.S. Senate was scheduled to begin voting on gun control measures this week when Congress returns from recess, but Senate staffers say a bipartisan agreement has yet to be reached on universal background checks. That snarl may end up delaying a vote on gun legislation for another week, as lobbyists on both sides of the debate use the extra time to keep the pressure on.

The U.S. Senate was scheduled to begin voting on gun control measures this week when Congress returns from recess, but Senate staffers say a bipartisan agreement has yet to be reached on universal background checks. That snarl may end up delaying a vote on gun legislation for another week, as lobbyists on both sides of the debate use the extra time to keep the pressure on.

Congress comes back from a two-week spring break on Monday.
Charles Dharapak/AP

Gun control advocacy groups — such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — have been popping into Senate offices all recess, just talking to staffers, but hoping their words might trickle up to the ears of lawmakers.

The group formed within days after the Newtown, Conn., shootings and most of the 80,000 members have never lobbied before in their lives.

"I certainly think that walking through the halls of Congress is a little intimidating," member Cathi Geeslin says. "But once you realize that they actually work for you, then it's not so scary."

Their recent target was Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. Warner is a senator of interest to both sides of the gun fight because he's a Democrat in a conservative state with a strong tradition of gun ownership.

The National Rifle Association had told its members to barrage Warner's office with calls that morning. When Moms Demand Action heard that, they launched a counter-offensive, clogging up Warner's phone lines so badly that calls were going straight to voicemail.

Later, several Moms members visited Warner to talk about universal background checks. It's the central issue bedeviling Democratic senators who are trying to get a bipartisan agreement before any gun bill hits the Senate floor.

Checks And Balances

The key Republican player is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who has an "A" rating from the NRA. The common view is if he doesn't get on board, the background checks bill will fail. Coburn has said he's willing to expand background checks to private gun sales, but he doesn't want any records kept that would allow the government to keep track of who owns guns.

Gun control advocates call that a foolish position.

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