Q&A: Gun control prospects in GOP-run Congress remain remote

In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. Eleven top-tier Republican presidential hopefuls face off in their second prime-time debate of the 2016 campaign Sept. 16, in a clash between outsiders and establishment candidates under a cathedral of political conservatism. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Another mass shooting, another appearance by a stricken-looking President Barack Obama expressing anguish and frustration over congressional inaction on gun control laws.

And in a now-familiar pattern, coupled with that — no sign that the chances for new firearms restrictions emerging soon from Congress are anything but remote. Here’s a look at why that remains true, even after Thursday’s shootings at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, that left at least nine victims dead:

Q: Are there any signs that congressional resistance to tightening gun laws is receding?

A: No. Most Democrats favor making it harder for people to purchase firearms while most Republicans oppose that idea. With the GOP running both the House and Senate since January, leaders have shown no willingness to even hold votes on curbing guns. And the National Rifle Association remains a potent force opposing restrictions.

Q: What’s the latest measurement of gun sentiment in Congress?

A: In December 2012, a shooter killed 20 1st-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. With the stunning massacre still fresh and Democrats controlling the Senate, lawmakers voted the following April on a bipartisan proposal to require background checks of all firearms purchasers at gun shows and on the Internet.

It failed.

Democrats fell five votes short of the 60 needed to end a GOP procedural blockade that killed the measure. Four Republicans supported the restrictions while four Democrats opposed them.

Q: Have gun control supporters gotten closer to having enough votes to prevail?

A: They’ve lost strength, plus they now face a Senate controlled by the GOP.

As a result of the 2014 elections and retirements, six Democrats who backed that 2013 measure are no longer in the Senate and have been replaced by Republicans likely to vote “no.” That probably leaves supporters 11 votes shy of being able to advance the legislation.

And there are no signs that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has any desire to allow votes on curbing guns.

Q: What about the House?

A: That GOP-run chamber didn’t even have votes on major gun restrictions after Newtown.

This year, it is controlled by Republicans with their largest margin in decades. And with conservatives having just pressured House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to unexpectedly retire, the new leadership team will have little incentive to consider allowing votes on gun curbs.

Even so, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and nearly 80 other Democrats wrote Boehner Friday saying the House should pass “common sense gun laws.”

Q: What about trying again on the background check bill that failed in the Senate?

A: Its two sponsors, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., say they still back the idea. But they haven’t reintroduced it this year, saying they lack the votes to prevail. “It’s math,” says Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott.

Q: Have any gun bills been introduced this year?

A: Scores, including by Democrats seeking to tighten gun curbs and Republicans looking to ease them. Nothing major has gone anywhere.

One bill by No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas would provide extra federal funds to states sending most of their records on people with serious mental problems to the federally run background check system. It’s drawn the wrath of gun-control advocates because it would also make it easier for some people who have had mental problems to get firearms.

Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced legislation buttressing government efforts to help the mentally ill. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., has proposed a similar bill. Neither directly addresses guns.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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