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Republicans and some pro-gun Democrats envision a more modest package. It is unclear whether there is sufficient support in the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives to pass any gun restrictions beyond improved background checks.
The calls for gun control - so prominent during the emotional days following the shootings in Connecticut - will face political reality in Congress.
The committee chairman, Senator Patrick Leahey, made clear whatever measures would be considered to rein in gun violence, there would be no move to erode the fundamental right of Americans to own a gun, which is protected under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Americans have the right to have guns in their home to protect their family,” he said.
Americans must come together on the issue, Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, added.
Most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress favor gun rights and represent constituents who do as well. The NRA has called any attempt to restrict weapon sales an assault on Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.
In recent days, some Republican lawmakers have joined Democrats in emphasizing better background checks of gun buyers, rather than Obama’s plan to ban the sale of rapid-firing assault weapons like the one used in the Connecticut shootings.
The NRA’s plan for securing schools has revolved around putting armed guards on campuses. In a statement released Tuesday that he plans to give before the Senate panel on Wednesday, LaPierre sounded a familiar refrain of gun-rights supporters, calling on better enforcement of existing gun laws rather than new laws.
“We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” he said.
Federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks for criminal records on gun buyers. But the government estimates that 40 percent of purchasers avoid screening by getting their guns from private sellers, including those at gun shows.
The White House’s plan would require screening for all prospective buyers.
The background check provision is generally regarded as the gun-control measure most likely to receive bipartisan support, but even it could face some difficulty.