WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is ready to hit the road on a new campaign-style public relations trip, hoping to breathe new life into the push for stronger gun control laws.
With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid planning to bring a scaled back package of gun legislation to the Senate floor early next month, the White House is hoping they can rebuild some of the momentum that has been lost in the months since the Newtown shootings.
A White House official would not comment on the timing of more presidential travel, but said people should expect to see Obama travel outside DC to bolster his insistence that gun control measures “deserve a vote” in Congress.
Obama will have help. Over the coming two-week congressional recess, representatives of the Brady Campaign and Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns tell BuzzFeed they’re gearing up for major campaigns aimed at ginning up votes for gun control over recess. That includes grassroots lobbying of members while they’re home and other efforts.
The president got the ball rolling with his weekly address Saturday, which focused on gun violence. Obama called on congress take action.
“We’ve made progress over the last three months, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “And in the weeks ahead, I hope Members of Congress will join me in finishing the job – for our communities and, most importantly, for our kids.”
Obama has been lobbying members on both sides on a number of legislative priorities, including gun violence. Talk of guns was part of Obama’s recent “charm offensive” on Capitol Hill. But Reid’s dropping of the ban on so-called assault weapons from the Senate gun bill and the withdrawal of an Obama judicial nominee opposed by the NRA are clear indications that momentum has shifted towards gun rights supporters on Capitol Hill.
The president and his allies hope to regain the upper hand, and advocates of gun control point to polling showing widespread public support for universal background checks (even among gun owners) as evidence that there’s still interest in taking action following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.
But polling doesn’t always equal votes in Congress, where aides on both sides of the aisle say much of the momentum has either stalled or been reversed. Indeed, several senior Democratic aides have said in recent weeks that at best Congress can be expected to pass some sort of mental health legislation and tighter controls on black market sales, and possibly a modest expansion of background checks — unless something significant changes.
Clearly aware of those dynamics, the president is hoping he can use the bully pulpit to force reticent members to take on the NRA.