WASHINGTON — Two top senators predicted yesterday that gun legislation will come up again for a Senate vote — possibly before the end of the year — as public attitudes shift toward stricter controls.
Their assessment comes after the defeat last week of a widely popular bipartisan background check measure that was drafted in response to the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., after a gunman opened fire killing 26 people, mostly children.
“I think we’re going to bring this bill back before the end of the year and I think you may find some changes,” said Sen Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a chief backer of the bill, at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “Lots of senators who thought it was safe to vote against it” he said, “are not so sure anymore” because of changing attitudes.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key Republican backer of the measure who spoke at the same event, concurred. “I do agree with Chuck. I think the issue is going to come back,” he said.
McCain said Congress needs to address specific aspects of gun violence that were not covered in the bill, including “the issue of crazy people who do terrible things,” as he noted the mass shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and in Tucson in his home state of Arizona.
“That is probably the toughest part of this issue: Where do individual rights end and the obligation to protect the population begin?” McCain said. “We really need to have that national discussion, I think, in more depth.”
Schumer acknowledged that the bill, which included the background check provision as its marquee element, might be changed “a little bit.”
The outlook from the senators comes as new polling show Americans’ anger with the Senate’s vote last week is not as strong the satisfaction coming from those who said they were “very happy” with the outcome.
At the same time, individual senators may be feeling the heat as outside groups, including Obama’s Organizing for America, announced it would target those from both parties who opposed the bill.
Americans overwhelmingly supported extending background checks to guns bought online or at gun shows, and more reacted negatively than positively to the Senate’s rejection of the measure.