Washington: The top US gun lobbying group says Congress doesn`t have enough votes to pass a ban on assault weapons, while the vice president was meeting with lawmakers a day before handing President Barack Obama a set of proposals on curbing mass shootings and other gun violence.
The National Rifle Association has so far prevented passage of another assault weapons ban like the one that expired in 2004.
But some lawmakers say last month`s school shooting in Connecticut, where a gunman with a legally purchased high-powered rifle shot dead 20 young children and six adults, has transformed the debate and that Americans are ready for stricter gun laws.
The NRA, with a history of punishing lawmakers who stray from its point of view, disagrees.
"When a president takes all the power of his office, if he`s willing to expend political capital, you don`t want to make predictions," NRA president David Keene told CNN yesterday.
"You don`t want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress."
Obama could act through the executive power of his office instead, and Vice President Joe Biden has said that is an option. Obama is expected to announce the next steps on gun violence after he is inaugurated over the weekend and enters his second term.
Meanwhile, senators plan to introduce a bill that would ban assault weapons and limit the size of ammunition magazines.
Democratic Sen Dianne Feinstein has promised to make a renewed push for a ban on assault weapons.
Republican Sen John McCain responded with a flat-out "no" when asked yesterday on CBS whether Congress would pass a ban on assault weapons.
Democratic Sen Joe Manchin, a lifelong member of the NRA, has said everything should be on the table to prevent another tragedy. But he assured gun owners he would fight for gun rights at the same time.
"I would tell all of my friends in NRA, I will work extremely hard and I will guarantee you there will not be an encroachment on your Second Amendment rights" to bear arms, Manchin said on ABC.
The NRA and other pro-gun groups insist that gun control conflicts with that Second Amendment guarantee, while others say the country`s founders more than two centuries ago could not have imagined the kind of high-powered guns available now.
The NRA used its political power to spend at least USD 24 million in the 2012 elections. Separately, the NRA spent some USD 4.4 million through July 1 to lobby Congress.
Keene says the group represents its members and not just gun manufacturers, though he said the NRA would like industry to contribute more money to the association.