By Mike Lillis - 01/03/13 04:53 PM EST
House Democrats will waste no time in the new Congress pushing legislation to tighten the nation's gun laws.
The legislation will be introduced after the 113th Congress is officially gaveled in Thursday, the same day that children from Sandy Hook Elementary School returned to classes for the first time since a lone gunman stormed into the school and fatally shot 26 people. They are attending school at a different location.
The shooter, a 20-year-old who reportedly had a history of mental illness, fatally shot himself as the police moved in.
McCarthy, DeGette and other gun-control advocates say the elimination of ammunition magazines that hold dozens of bullets would help lessen the carnage in such indiscriminate shootings.
"These assault magazines help put the ‘mass’ in ‘mass shooting’ and anything we can do to stop their proliferation will save lives in America,” McCarthy said in a statement. Her husband was killed and her son seriously injured in a 1993 shooting on a Long Island, N.Y., commuter train.
"These devices are used to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible, and we owe it to innocent Americans everywhere to keep them out of the hands of dangerous people," McCarthy said.
"We don’t even allow hunters to use them," she added. "Something’s deeply wrong if we’re protecting game more than we’re protecting innocent human beings."
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The reformers now have a powerful ally in President Obama, who has used the Newtown massacre to urge congressional action on gun violence for the first time in his White House tenure.
"I'd like to get it done in the first year," Obama said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program Sunday.
Obama has appointed Vice President Biden to head a new task force assigned to come up with concrete proposals to curb gun violence, looking not only at gun laws but also the mental health system and violence-in-culture issues.
Biden is expected to lend the task force's recommendations this month.
"This is not something that I will be putting off," Obama vowed Sunday.
The gun-control proponents have a tough fight ahead. Not only has the National Rifle Association (NRA) come out strongly against new gun laws since the Newtown shooting, but Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have also been quick to reject the notion that tougher gun restrictions will prevent violent people from shooting others.
"We’re going to take a look at what happened there [in Newtown] and what can be done to help avoid it in the future," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees gun laws, told Roll Call last month. "But gun control is not going to be something that I would support."
The Democrats don't seem to be deterred, and they see Thursday's proposal, which would ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, as one of their best chances to rein in gun violence.
"While there is no single answer to stopping these massacres, this bill is a step that will go a long way toward making our country safe," DeGette said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is expected to introduce similar legislation in the upper chamber.