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Gun Control Debate Back in Spotlight

Immediately after the mass shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school Friday that left 20 children dead, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to discuss whether President Barack Obama would pursue gun control legislation.

But the initial reluctance of Carney and congressional Democrats to discuss the issue began to recede Sunday, as key Democratic senators announced plans to propose new gun control legislation in the months ahead.

“I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons. It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill.”

“It can be done,” added Feinstein, who serves as chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called the recent rash of shootings “a tipping point where we might actually get something done.” Schumer is the third-ranking Senate Democrat.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said on “Fox News Sunday” that he would discuss the issues in a hearing in the new year.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was less specific but said he will “talk about it on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Despite Feinstein and other gun control advocates calling for stronger measures, obstacles remain — even among Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has long been praised by the National Rife Association for his opposition to reviving the law against assault weapons. The Second Amendment has strong support among Nevada voters. Reid’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he would allow Feinstein’s bill to come to a vote early next year.

Republican senators, most of whom of are staunch defenders of the Second Amendment, were reluctant to make the rounds on the Sunday morning public affairs shows.

“Meet the Press” Executive Producer Betsy Fischer tweeted during her show’s taping, “BTW, we reached out to ALL 31 pro-gun rights Sens in the new Congress to invite them to share their views on @meetrhepress – NO takers.”

She later clarified that she was referring to senators with “A” ratings from gun rights groups.

“Face the Nation” host Bob Scheiffer said Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee declined his show’s invitation.

That said, Republican House members were eager to defend gun rights positions.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, advocated the arming of school administration officials on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I wish to God [slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung] had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, urged a focus on mental health issues and violence in video games and films.

“There’s a lot of conjecture out there that — that I don’t think necessarily would solve this particular problem,” he said about Second Amendment restrictions on “This Week.”

“And I want to look at anything that we think will solve all the problems, but we have to, I think, look at the mental health aspect,” he added.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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