LANSDOWNE, Va. -- Even as she acknowledged that passing a new assault weapons ban would be a challenge, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called on Congress to consider the “boldest possible package” to reduce gun violence in the “small window” that has opened for action.
An assault weapons ban was one of 15 proposals in a plan issued Thursday by a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force led by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), which mirrored a similar report from a White House panel led by Vice President Joe Biden.
The Democratic leader, speaking to reporters during a House Democratic issues conference at a golf resort outside Washington, said she endorsed each of the principles of the report. When pressed specifically on the assault weapons ban, she questioned the “justification” for such a weapon.
“I think we have to try to have the boldest possible package that reduces gun violence. And I don’t think we should try to find the slowest route right now. I think we should move as boldly as possible and see where we come out, rather than throwing in the towel on something that has no justification,” she said.
Any gun legislation that comes from Congress is likely to start in the Democratic-led Senate. The legislation expected to move from that chamber’s Judiciary Committee is likely to center on what appears to be the most politically realistic proposal: universal background checks on gun purchases.
Senate leaders said they expected other lawmakers would have a chance to offer amendments when the legislation reaches the floor -- which is the most likely venue for consideration of an assault weapons ban proposal from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Democrats were open about the differences of opinion among them. A news release from Thompson announcing the recommendations included a statement from Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), saying he had “genuine concerns” about some.
Pelosi stressed that there is no legislative language yet, but conceded a ban would be difficult to pass.
“It was hard then, it will be hard now,” she said, referring to the ban that passed in 1994. “But … public sentiment is everything,” she continued. “There's a small window here to get something done.”
Thompson, a combat veteran and hunter, said the principles put forth by his task force start from a strong belief in the 2nd Amendment, and the principle that Americans have a right to possess firearms for “lawful and legitimate purposes.”
Biden addressed the House Democrats on Wednesday night and made a similar case for acting now. "I don’t want to hear about ‘Well, we can’t take it on because it’s too politically dangerous,’ ” Biden said, according to Reuters. "There’s an overwhelming consensus about the need to act."
President Obama, though, urged his party to be respectful of others’ views in his address to the group Thursday.
“There are regional differences here and we should respect those, and guns mean something different for somebody who grew up on a farm in a rural community than somebody who grew up in an inner city,” he said. “But what we know is the majority of responsible gun owners recognize we cannot have a situation in which 20 more of our children, or 100 more of our children, or 1,000 more of our children are shot and killed in a senseless fashion, and that there are some common-sense steps that we can take and build a consensus around. And we cannot shy away from taking those steps.”