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The prospects for shorter-term, non-legislative alternatives, meanwhile, seem bleak. President Obama could sign executive orders that would close some loopholes allowing gun purchases without background checks. But in his first term Obama proved reluctant to use executive orders in this way. He is unlikely to try to bypass Congress on issues the Senate has explicitly voted down.
Another option gun control groups are considering is advocating for state-level legislation. Maryland recently passed tough measures banning the sales of assault weapons and high capacity bullet magazines, and requiring extensive background checks. Strict limitations on gun purchases have also passed in Colorado, notably a Western “purple” state whose political leanings are up for grabs. Similar measures, however, are not likely to be adopted in a majority of states.
Another possible long term move being discussed is changing the Senate rules to eliminate filibusters, which make it easy for the minority party to require a 60-vote majority on all legislation and nominations. The gun control debate, said Senator Blumenthal, could “provide the impetus and support to efforts to eliminate filibusters.” But such a change in procedural rules is viewed as politically unattainable now and not likely to be brought to debate until after the 2014 elections.
Contact Nathan Guttman at email@example.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman