Democrats in Congress, following the lead of President Obama, are now playing small ball on gun control after their post-Newtown hopes of significant legislation were dashed.
Capitol Hill Democrats are now focusing on modest moves, such as funding gun-violence prevention and calling for “smart guns” that only authorized users can operate.
For their part, prominent gun-control groups are looking outside Washington and toward the private sector, where they hope to pressure companies to disassociate themselves from guns and gun transactions.
On Capitol Hill, the action is chiefly on the funding side.
Last month’s spending bill to fund government operations in 2014 contained $8.5 million for programs to reduce gun crimes and gang violence, $58.5 million for grants to states to get them to turn over more records to the federal background check system — an increase of $40 million over fiscal 2013 levels — and $128 million for the FBI to operate the background checks.
A year ago at this time, the Senate was gearing up for a big debate over major gun-control legislation, including a ban on high-powered, semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as requiring background checks for all gun purchases.
Those plans, however, collapsed in April, when they fell victim to a GOP-led filibuster.
The flurry of gun-control bills after the Dec. 2012 shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has shrunk to a trickle, with lawmakers now settling for non-binding resolutions condemning gun violence.
“Instead of shooting for the moon, they said, ‘Maybe if we small-ball things we can get going,’” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said of the most recent efforts, while adding that gun-rights groups such as the NRA would be following even “small ball” items quite closely.