President Barack Obama's wide-ranging gun control plan to be unveiled midday Wednesday is already under attack by the National Rifle Association, which is hoping to keep Congress solidly opposed to any of what the White House is proposing.
But the pushback -- a new NRA video ad dubbing Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing armed Secret Service security for his daughters while not embracing the gun group's proposal for armed security in every school -- is already under attack itself, in another sign of the divisiveness of the issue that the president is set to make central to his agenda as he begins a second term.
"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the NRA ad's narrator asks. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security."
Wednesday's White House event marks Obama's formal entry into the gun control arena. He will announce a push for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, a requirement that all gun purchasers pass federal background checks and a new law against gun trafficking. None of these proposals appear to have any support among Republicans who control the House.
While gun control groups have secured meetings with House GOP leadership, no senior House Republican has spoken out in favor of any new gun control measures. And some conservative Senate Democrats have indicated an uneasiness with Obama's proposals as word of them leaked out ahead of the official announcement. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota each suggested Obama's far-reaching prohibitions may be going too far.
And already one congressman, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), has called for Obama's impeachment to protest the executive orders through which Obama has promised to act on gun control.
The NRA ad is just the beginning of what will be a fierce and sustained pushback from pro-gun forces against any changes to the nation's gun laws. Gun control was a fight Obama didn't want, didn't expect and, until the school massacre at Newtown, Conn., last month, didn't plan to make and had essentially never planned for.
But the deaths of 20 first-grade students and six adults at the hands of an armed killer changed the calculus for Obama, who called the day of the shooting the worst of his presidency.
Obama's gun control proposal, which has not been discussed in detail by the White House until now, will be part of a package that will also include a call for universal background checks for all new gun purchases, as well as new bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, according to a person who was in the room for a preview presentation to gun control advocates Tuesday night.
Obama will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, who led a White House guns working group and "children from around the country who wrote the president letters in the wake of" last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to the White House. Members of Congress and mayors supportive of gun control will also attend.
At the Tuesday night meeting, Biden chief of staff Bruce Reed acknowledged to officials from the groups the difficultly of passing any of Obama's proposals through Congress, where strong opposition is already mounting.
The assault weapons ban and a prohibition on high-capacity ammunition magazines will be "a hard, furious battle," Reed said, according to the person in the room.
Reed told the gun control advocates that the Obama proposal will have three prongs: legislation to reduce gun availability and executive actions to address education and mental health. The expected 19 executive actions would address anti-bullying measures and additional training for school counselors and mental health professionals.
The gun-trafficking proposal, which Reed acknowledged was a priority of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, would seek to prevent so-called straw-man purchases and stop gun-trafficking rings that transport weapons from states with lax gun laws to states with stronger ones.
But Reed called the universal background checks for all new gun purchases the most important element of Obama's entire gun violence proposal. It also calls for a ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds and an anti-trafficking law that the White House hopes will break up gun-trafficking rings, Reed told the group.
Reed said the White House is expecting legislation to be introduced by members of Congress as early as next week, though gun control advocates are already worried about the fate of the assault weapons ban.
The White House declined to comment on Reed's presentation.
Reed also said Obama will direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to conduct research into gun violence. Obama will seek to build on existing anti-bullying efforts and provide more federal resources for school counselors and school-resources officers, Reed told the groups.
Reed told the organizations that the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- will provide "a massive increase" in the availability of mental health services. Obama will also call for mental health training for school counselors and first responders.
Obama's recommendations come after a month of meetings led by Biden and members of Obama's Cabinet, particularly Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder, who have taken part in many of Biden's meetings and conference calls and held some on their own in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.
Among the gun control community, three camps have emerged: One seeks political victories on all counts, including an assault weapons ban; a second worries that attaching an assault weapons ban to legislation that could otherwise pass will cause the entire platform to fail; and a third seeks to use the assault weapons ban as a bargaining chip with NRA-backed members of Congress.
The third camp would trade away an assault weapons ban in exchange for universal background checks and a prohibition on high-capacity magazines.
"They tried compromising at the beginning before and they got burned," said one of those advocates. "Maybe if you started out at single payer for health care you wouldn't have gotten to the Romney plan. I think they've kind of learned how to do this. You have an opposition that has a defined position and you don't want to start where they are."
Among those seeking to pass an assault weapons ban are Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the author of the 1994 ban that expired in 2004, who plans to introduce a similar but tougher bill next week. Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, also supports this path.
"If the national resolve is there for the assault weapons ban, I'm completely confident it will pass," he said. "The administration at this point has looked at it in terms of really listening to the American public and putting forward the solutions that they think will prevent tragedies like Newtown."
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday that an assault weapons ban may not be the best use of momentum gun control advocates now have.
"We have to think about what we can actually get done," McCarthy said. "There are four things that they're talking about that are mine, that I've been fighting for for a lot of years. If we get three of them in, I'll be thrilled."
Jim Kessler of the Third Way urged the White House to be clear-eyed about the challenges it faces in Congress.
"This isn't like the fiscal cliff, where something absolutely has to get done," Kessler said. "Congress is perfectly capable of doing nothing on guns. There's no law that has to go to the president's desk on guns. The president is going to push on this, but Congress is ultimately going to decide whats included and what isn't. It's a heavy lift, the assault weapons ban, it's hard to get through. I was with [New York Sen. Chuck] Schumer when it happened in 1994. It passed 216-214. It's never been an easy bill."
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