Brady campaign sees momentum on federal gun control push

The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claimed momentum Tuesday in a renewed push for more stringent federal gun control regulations.

Conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill says the post-Newtown push for tightened restrictions on gun purchases is all but dead, following the defeat this spring of a bipartisan Senate measure that would have required background checks for all commercial gun sales.

The amendment offered in April by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), seen as gun control advocates’ best chance for a victory in the current political landscape, fell six votes short of approval.

Brady Campaign President Dan Gross called the Manchin-Toomey vote a “stinging loss.” But he said the group has begun to chip away at the opposition and has identified potential “yes” votes to move the proposal closer to the 60 needed for Senate passage.

He did not elaborate on which senators were being targeted.

“The tide is turning. We have genuine momentum on our side,” Gross maintained during remarks the National Press Club. “There’s very fertile ground to get us to 60.”

Last week, the Brady Campaign launched a public campaign in support of regulations extending background checks to all commercial gun sales. The push coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Brady Act’s passage.

Like the group, the Brady bill was named for Jim Brady, the former White House press secretary shot during a 1981 assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan.

The law created the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) and requires background checks for all gun purchases from licensed gun dealers.

But gun control advocates say it fails to cover firearms bought at gun shows or via online sites.

Describing the Internet as “the largest gun show on earth,” Gross said as many as 40 percent of firearms are purchased outside of licensed gun stores, many on websites like ARMSLIST.com.

“This, to be clear, is not sales between hunting buddies or family members as the gun lobby wants you to think. It’s big commercial business, and it’s making all of us less safe,” Gross said.

Gross acknowledged that the campaign remains at a financial disadvantage when compared to the powerful National Rifle Association, but he said the group intends to triple or quadruple its $10 million annual budget in the next five years.

Extending background checks is the campaign’s top priority said Gross, who was flanked by Brady’s wife. For her part, Sarah Brady noted that it took years to pass the original background check legislation, and said she remained confident that success this time around is a matter of time.

“We are right, the other side is not right,” she said.  “We’ve got to finish the job that we first started.”