The Senate is starting to consider a series of bills on Obama's agenda, including universal background checks for all gun buyers, tougher laws on gun trafficking and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The bill Feinstein and Durbin unveiled would prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacturing or importation of more than 150 specific firearms as well as magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds.
"This is a tough battle," Feinstein said at the start of an elaborately-staged andemotional presentation.
Both the White House and Senate Democrats plan to enlist religious leaders to leverage public support for gun-control bills. "Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby," the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, said at the Feinstein event Thursday. "But I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby."
The National Rifle Association dismissed Feinstein's proposal outright: "The American people know gun bans do not work and we are confident Congress will reject Senator Feinstein's wrong-headed approach."
The White House is keeping its distance as the Senate begins considering the measure, having calculated that an overt presence on Capitol Hill — for now, at least — could jeopardize the agenda, according to a Democrat who is working with the White House and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
"They're not in there on the details and doing whip counts and being all Lyndon Johnson about it," the Democrat said.
Theperson said the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Charles Schumer of New York, would play a behind-the-scenes "quarterback" role pushing the various gun measures. This is in part because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has little interest in taking a leadership role on gun laws considering the issue's sensitivity in his homestate of Nevada.