2014 elections threaten an assault weapons ban

Democrats will introduce a new version of the ban Thursday, but could face opposition from within their own party

By Jillian Rayfield
January 24, 2013 7:13PM (UTC)
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Democrats are planning to reintroduce a bill on Thursday that would broadly ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, similar to the one that expired in 2004.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., would ban over 100 different types of weapons. From the Washington Post:


The bill is a far-reaching attempt to rein in the use of such weapons by prohibiting the sale, transfer and manufacturing of more than 100 specific weapons, including certain semiautomatic rifles, handguns and shotguns that can hold detachable magazines or hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Aides said Wednesday that sponsors were still sorting out specific details of the bill to make the package as politically tenable as possible.

But it may be difficult for Senate Democrats to wrangle some members of their own party, like Joe Manchin of W.Va., an NRA-backed senator whose state is home to a number of gun owners. Manchin has not yet said whether he will support an assault weapons ban, but has faced opposition from his constituents, including a group that picketed his office. Most recently, Manchin said he doesn't think an assault weapons ban could pass on its own.

And then there are those Democrats from gun-friendly states who face potentially tough reelection campaigns in 2014. The New York Times reports:

Of far greater concern are Democrats who are up for re-election in 2014. Those include senators like Max Baucus of Montana, who was awarded an A+ rating from the N.R.A. Mr. Baucus has worded his comments on the subject carefully, bracketing them with gun rights-friendly language, like saying the “culture of violence” needs to be seriously examined along with any changes to the law.

There is Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who has said flatly that he would not support a new assault weapons ban, and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who initially came out in support of the ban but has been more circumspect recently, saying in an interview last week that he would want to see the language of any such legislation first.

There's Kay Hagan of North Carolina, also up for reelection next year, whose state holds the headquarters for the rifle company Remington. And in New Hampshire, where Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Sig Sauer are based, Jeanne Shaheen has to face voters who see the gun companies as job makers. “Clearly they’re going to be concerned about restrictions, because it’s going to affect the sales they do,” Shaheen said. “But it seems to me there are places where we can come to an agreement.”


A new poll from ABC/Washington Post finds that 53 percent of Americans view President Obama's gun control proposals favorably, compared with 41 percent who view them unfavorably.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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2014 Elections Assault Weapons Ban Joe Manchin Max Baucus Senate Democrats