WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gun rights groups on Sunday forecast that bids to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips would fail in Congress, as Vice President Joe Biden prepares this week to give President Barack Obama proposals to curb gun violence.
Even some congressional Democrats indicated that a bill to revive the U.S. assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 would have a difficult time winning passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate.
“An assault weapons stand-alone ban - on just guns alone ... in the political reality that we have today, will not go anywhere,” Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, himself a gun owner, told the CNN program “State of the Union.”
National Rifle Association President David Keene signaled little appetite for compromise as the White House mulls action on gun violence after the December 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
“What we put the brakes on is anything that simply takes away a person’s Second Amendment right for no good reason,” Keene told the CNN show, referring to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the right to bear arms.
“The likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress,” Keene said. Asked about new limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, he added: “I don’t think ultimately they are going to get that either.”
Biden, who heads a task force on gun violence due to give Obama recommendations as early as Tuesday, has said he will recommend universal background checks for gun buyers and new limits on the capacity of magazines like those used by the Connecticut gunman.
The White House also has said it will try to revive the U.S. ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 after being in effect for a decade. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are expected to introduce legislation on reviving the assault-weapons ban.
The gun control debate has been heating up since the Connecticut massacre. The issue even came up during the Miss America pageant on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Miss New York, Mallory Hytes Hagan, the eventual winner, was asked during the competition whether armed guards should be put in schools.
“I don’t think the proper way to fight violence is with violence,” Hagan said, indicating that she opposes the idea championed by the NRA after the Newtown massacre.
The NRA has a long history of influence in Washington. It spends heavily on political races and says it has 4 million members. The group criticized the White House effort after meeting with Biden on Thursday.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Larry Pratt, executive director of another gun rights group, Gun Owners of America, said: “We don’t think that there is much likelihood that the Congress is going to move on making gun-control laws worse than they are.”
Pratt also touted a House Republican lawmaker’s proposal to get rid of “gun-free zones” around schools, and asked: “Are we really better off when we say, ‘No defense is a good defense?’”
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, was cautious about the chances for a revival of the assault weapons ban. He told CNN: “I think that we have a possibility. But I think it’s going to be very difficult. I think the things that we do agree on, it seems, (are) the universal background checks and the (limits on) high-capacity magazines.”
Biden on Friday wrapped up a series of White House meetings with people on various sides of the issue, including the NRA and gun owners’ groups, the movie and video-game industries and law enforcement.
The background check requirement would extend to all gun purchasers. This would close the “gun-show loophole,” in which vendors at open-air gun sales events can sell without a background check on the purchaser. It would also extend to private sales such as those conducted over the Internet.
Reporting by Will Dunham and David Brunnstrom