Pro-Gun Democrats branch out, Begich stays put

Speaking in Newtown Sunday night, an unusually direct President Barack Obama made clear, Washington and the rest of the country will once-again engage in a heated debate over weapons.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” he said in a somber high school gym.

Mr. Obama said that any one bill, or any set of bills will not stop future violence.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will introduce a bill banning the sale of high-capacity magazines. Feinstein, a former San Francisco supervisor and mayor, found the body of Supervisor Harvey Milk after fellow Supervisor Dan White gunned him down inside City Hall in 1978.

A number of pro-gun democrats are saying now is the time to tackle the issue.

“It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told MSNBC Monday morning.

Former governor Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told the Richmond CBS affiliate the nation is ready for the dialogue.

“The idea that we can just kind of ignore this issue, I join with the president and, I think, reasonable folks in both parties, and I think the overwhelming majority of Americans who are gun owners who believe that we’ve got to put stricter rules on the books,” he said.

Neither Warner nor Manchin, who both enjoy “A” ratings from the NRA, offered specifics just yet; they say it’s too soon.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), like Manchin and Warner, is a centrist with high ratings from the NRA. But unlike his colleagues, he did not commit to reforming gun laws.

“We need to focus on the broader issue of violence in this country and the need for mental health services,” he said Monday as he hurried into the Senate chamber.

Sen. Begich is up for reelection in two years. Though he has an “A” rating from the NRA, the gun lobby did not grant that until after his campaign against former Senator Ted Stevens.

The NRA did not donate money to Sen. Begich’s 20008 campaign, and it hasn’t contributed to his reelection either.

Sarah Bryner, an Alaskan who works as research director for the DC-based Center for Responsive Politics, said it still could.

“This is the first time we’re going to have an incumbent Democrat with a pro-gun record running for Alaska federal office, so it’s a totally new ballgame,” she said Monday night.

With leaders transfixed on averting end of the year fiscal problems, it’s unclear when a gun-control bill will come before Congress.