Federal gun legislation has passed its first legislative hurdle in the Senate, including background checks on sales at gun shows, and banning high-capacity magazines.
But do any of the proposals have a chance of passing?
Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, said the background check portion could, but little else realistically has a shot.
“It’s likely to pass, the further requirements for background checks, for guns that are sold at gun shows, which right now are not, that’s the main thing. There are other things that are proposed but are less likely to pass, like banning high-capacity magazines,” he said.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., debate has raged between politicians, communities and outside groups on the hot-button issue of gun control. Four months later, even people with keen interest are weary of paying attention.
“There’s intensity on both sides. People near Newtown would like to see much more done, and they try to build from that,” Bullock said.
Jon Lipscomb, owner of Foxhole Guns and Archery in Gainesville, said he was vaguely familiar with the background check bill, but that “honestly, I stopped paying attention.”
“We’re having to pay attention every month trying to figure out what’s going on, there’s some new law, and then they never vote on it,” he said.
Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were among 16 Republicans who voted with most Democrats to allow a floor debate on a gun regulation bill.
The details of the compromise aren’t yet final, but Thursday’s 68-31 vote was a major procedural hurdle that allows Democrats to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Isakson and Chambliss have not said how they would vote on a final bill. Isakson has said any new law should focus on background checks and mental health. But he’s been pressured from gun rights groups to oppose any changes.
Isakson isn’t up for re-election until 2016, and Chambliss has already announced that he will not seek a third term next year.
A final vote isn’t expected for weeks.
Politically, Republicans are keenly aware of how their vote affects their stance with the National Rifle Association and conservative constituents.
“The situation is though you’ve got the NRA, which is really opposed to any additional kinds of regulations, and they are very powerful, their positions on the issue are not indicative of where the average American is, but it’s an important component in a Republican primary,” Bullock said. “Overwhelmingly so, Americans favor standard background checks and other regulations on access to assault rifles.”
If a Republican faced a competitive primary, more conservative challengers might exploit votes on gun legislation.
“Primaries attract relatively small electorates, and those who do show up feel very intensely about certain concerns,” Bullock said.
The only conclusion Lipscomb has at this point is that a bill will pass, eventually. It’s simply a matter of time.
“They have realized that they must pass something,” Lipscomb said. “What are they going to pass? Will it affect our gun rights? I don’t know, you never know how far they’re going to take it, what the fine print says, how they’re going to enforce it, when they can barely enforce what’s on the books now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.