WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are taking a stand following the recent deadly shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a company holiday party in San Bernardino, California.
After 14 people were killed at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Wednesday, the predictable partisan stances emerged. Hillary Clinton said she refused to accept this as normal and that action must be taken now to curb gun violence. Sen. Bernie Sanders said “senseless gun violence must stop” and called on Congress to pass “sensible legislation.” Martin O’Malley stated that it is time to stand up to the NRA and “enact meaningful gun safety laws.”
On the Republican side, however, they had a different take. Sen. Marco Rubio told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he is against expanding background checks for gun sales because none of the major shootings would have been stopped with them. Sen. Ted Cruz said Democrats “remain obsessed with disarming Americans.” Sen. Rand Paul said President Barack Obama just wants to make these tragedies “political.”
Larry Sabato, director at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told CBSDC that the issue of gun control will be a major issue in next year’s presidential election.
“It will be talked about a lot. Partisans on both sides will be energized by it, but in predictable ways,” Sabato said.
A recent New York Daily News/Rasmussen Reports poll found that 80 percent of Americans want tougher gun laws. Among the ways to accomplish that, 33 percent wanted more background checks, 22 percent supported “more rigorous testing for the mentally ill,” and 16 percent wanted mandatory jail sentences for the “criminal use of a gun.”
Breaking it down among party lines, 66 percent of Republicans said gun control laws would make it harder for “law-abiding citizens” to buy firearms, while 58 percent of Democrats said stricter laws would be effective.
Sabato told CBSDC that you “can’t eliminate that possibility” that gun violence will hurt the eventual Republican presidential nominee at the polls.
“Election researchers always found that gun-rights backers put a much higher priority on the issue, so even though they are outnumbered on gun control matters, they often put gun issues at the top of their agenda,” Sabato explained. “Thus, they can out-vote the pro-gun control general public. Could it be different this time? Probably not, but this far out, you can’t eliminate that possibility.”
Sabato added, “Most Americans reached the tipping point many mass shootings ago. But that doesn’t mean the political equation has changed. Our system protects minority rights — including minority viewpoints on controversial matters like gun rights. It is exceptionally difficult to overcome this.”
On Thursday, the Senate shot down several gun legislation bills.
In a mostly party-line 50-48 vote, the Senate voted Thursday against expanding background checks for more gun purchases. The background check measure, co-authored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., was the same proposal the Senate rejected in early 2013, just months after 20 children and six educators were shot to death at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Earlier, the Senate in mostly party-line votes rejected rival proposals that could make it harder for people the government suspects of being terrorists from purchasing firearms.
By 54-45, senators voted down a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would let the government bar sales to people it suspects of being terrorists. Though she initially introduced the proposal early this year, it received attention after last month’s attacks in Paris.
Minutes earlier, the Senate killed a rival plan by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Under that proposal, the transaction could be halted permanently during that waiting period if federal officials could persuade a judge to do so.
Senators voted 55-44 for Cornyn’s proposal, but it needed 60 votes to pass.
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