By Mike Lillis - 01/16/13 08:06 PM EST
Republicans criticized President Obama’s sweeping new strategy on gun violence Wednesday as an assault on the Second Amendment and an executive branch power grab.
While the response from the National Rifle Association and Speaker John Boehner’s office was muted, other Republicans quickly lashed out at Obama, foreshadowing a tough fight on Capitol Hill.
“He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the 2nd Amendment and the legislative process,” Priebus said in a statement.
Other GOP leaders treaded more cautiously, but also strongly suggested they're wary of Obama's plan, which includes policy changes that have historically been anathema to a vast majority of Republicans — like a ban on military-style guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Boehner’s office said House committees “will review these recommendations,” but suggested action will have to take place in the upper chamber.
“And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that,” spokesman Michael Steel said in an email.
“Good intentions do not necessarily make good laws,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over gun issues, said in a statement, “so as we investigate the causes and search for solutions, we must ensure that any proposed solutions will actually be meaningful in preventing the taking of innocent life and that they do not trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”
Goodlatte — who last month said he would not support gun control — said Republicans “will take these recommendations into consideration” but will also pursue “our own inquiries” into gun-violence prevention.
Obama’s proposals are in response to last month’s killings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a lone gunman wielding an assault rifle. The attack was the latest in a long string of high-profile mass shootings to plague the country.
Long-time gun reformers say the Newtown case is a game-changer because it brought gun reform to the forefront of Obama's policy agenda — the first time a president has aggressively tackled the issue in two decades.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), who came to Congress to advocate for tougher gun laws after her husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, said Obama's public campaign for gun reform marks “a huge difference” in the debate.
“For the first time in almost 20 years, we have a president showing very strong leadership on the need to reduce gun violence, including the need for better restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the need for a better background check system, and the need to crack down on illegal gun trafficking,” McCarthy said in a statement.
“The president has acted, and now it’s Congress’s turn to act too.”
But it remains to be seen how many of Obama’s proposals will actually become law.
The NRA, which has successfully lobbied members in both parties to oppose new gun restrictions, released a brief statement reiterating its stance that guns are not the reason for gun violence.
“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” the group said. “Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”
Liberal groups heralded Obama’s proposals, praising a president they have often criticized as too centrist.
“We applaud the White House plan to think big and take bold action against gun killings,” Stephanie Taylor, head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in an email.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Obama struck a balance between protecting communities and the constitutional right to bear arms.
“I’m a hunter and I’ve always owned guns, and I’ll be hunting pythons in the Everglades this week,” Nelson said Wednesday in a statement. “What President Obama is proposing is not an assault on the Second Amendment.”
“I applaud his decisive and quick leadership on this issue and strongly support every provision of his plan,” echoed Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).
Republicans are not the only barrier to Obama's gun-reform wish-list. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has historically opposed gun reforms, particularly an assault weapons ban, suggested this week that he won't bring such a proposal to floor.
In a short statement that was absent details, Reid said Wednesday that he's “committed” to having the Senate act “early this year” on legislation “that addresses gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society.”
“The tragedy at Sandy Hook was just the latest sad reminder that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens — especially our children — from gun violence and a culture of violence,” Reid said, “and all options should be on the table moving forward.”
Republican supporters of new gun reforms are a rare breed on Capitol Hill. But at least one said this that he'd back a package featuring an assault weapons ban and other limits on guns.
“I would support it,” said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, “but I know it's gonna be tough to get it to the floor.”