Vulnerable Senate Democrats balk at Obama’s gun control measures

Some vulnerable Senate Democrats are balking at President Obama’s new push on gun control, reflecting the tough position many will be in if Congress takes up major firearms legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT
Shortly after Obama unveiled the details of his policy, a number of Democrats from conservative, heavily rural states who are up for reelection in 2014 indicated they’re likely to oppose the measures. 

The responses indicate how tough it will be for any legislation to move through Congress — and how tricky an issue it is for some rural-state Democrats facing reelection.

Here’s a rundown of what some of those Democrats had to say about the proposals:

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he’s not eager to pass new gun control legislation. 

“I think they’ve got a long haul here … There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right,” he said. “To be frank, I feel like it’s going to be hard for any of these pieces of legislation to pass at this point.”


More from The Hill:
♦ Ryan: House GOP discussing short-term hike to debt-limit
♦ White House 'seeking clarity' on Algeria hostage situation
♦ Manti Te'o saga reached House floor
♦ GOP worries they'll lose House if they both debt talks
♦ Conservative groups demand balanced budget in debt deal
♦ Dem bill would ban sales of violent video games to minors



Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told a local television station that he opposed the proposals. 

"While I appreciate the president's efforts to keep Americans safe, I believe the place to start is to enforce the laws on the books. That being said, I will continue to look for areas of common ground, including funding for law enforcement in schools, implementing tracking systems for the mentally ill and criminals, and addressing violence in the media. Most importantly, I will be talking with my constituents in Arkansas as I vote on these issues in the future," Pryor said.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) indicated he was hesitant about supporting new legislation.

“Enforcing the laws we already have on the books is good first step, and it's clear more needs to be done to address access to mental health care,” he said in a Wednesday statement. “Before passing new laws, we need a thoughtful debate that respects responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Montana instead of a one-size-fits all directives from Washington."

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said on Tuesday, before the proposals came out, that he didn’t want to see a “one-size-fits-all” approach. 

“We in South Dakota have far fewer problems with guns than they do in New York or New Jersey, and it makes common sense to not have one size fits all,” he said in a Tuesday news conference in South Dakota. "I believe in the Second Amendment, and I'm a hunter myself, but I think something should be done — but what, I don't know.”

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) was cautious regarding whether or not she supported the proposals, though she said she would look at the proposals with “an open mind.”

“We need to ensure that there are laws in place to prevent a tragedy like Sandy Hook from ever happening again. First and foremost, that will require a serious commonsense debate in Congress that looks at access to guns, access to mental health care and violent video games,” she said in a statement to The Hill. “While respecting the rights of responsible gun owners, I am committed to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues toward a comprehensive approach that ensures our communities are safe.

“As I have said, I will look at any proposal with an open mind, including the President’s proposals to make schools safer and grant law enforcement additional tools to prosecute gun crime,” she continued.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) similarly didn’t take a concrete stance on Obama’s proposals, though she sounded slightly more open to new legislation.

“My record of support for the Second Amendment is strong. In Louisiana and many places across the country, hunting, target shooting and gun collecting are time-honored sports and popular hobbies,” she said in a statement to reporters after Obama rolled out his proposals. 

“That said, last month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., has become all too familiar. We must find a way to balance our Second Amendment rights with the challenges of mental illness, criminal behavior and the safety of our schools and communities. We must also enforce the rules already on the books. Even some of the most respected law enforcement leaders in our country are calling for commonsense reforms because of this terrible violence in our communities.”

“This isn’t a Republican or a Democratic issue,” she continued. “It’s an American issue. And the American people expect us to come together and act. The safety of our children, our communities and our nation depend on it. I look forward to reviewing the proposals put forth by the administration and will give them my serious consideration as they are brought for debate in the Senate.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who hails from a left-leaning but heavily rural state, said during a meeting in Minnesota that he supported some of the measures but didn’t immediately weigh in on Obama’s calls for an assault weapons ban. Franken staffers later pointed out that he’s long supported renewing the assault weapons ban.

“I think most people agree that you don't need 30 rounds to bring down a deer," Franken said about Obama’s proposal to limit the size of ammunition magazines.