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How Democrats might get to 'yes' on gun control

To move their agenda on reducing gun violence forward, congressional Democrats will have to woo, and reassure, gun owners. But that won't preclude some tough political maneuvering.

By Staff writer / January 15, 2013

Gun enthusiasts packed in by the hundreds to purchase weapons and ammunition during the 2013 Rocky Mountain Gun Show, Jan. 6, in Sandy, Utah.

Rick Bowmer/AP

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Washington

If President Obama and congressional Democrats are going to make headway on the gun violence proposals Vice President Joe Biden is set to deliver to the president on Tuesday, their strategy will probably look a lot like gun-owning Rep. Mike Thompson – and move with the energy and purpose of political cage fighter Rahm Emanuel.

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Representative Thompson (D) of California remembers where he was on Dec. 14, the day of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. He was in a duck blind, back home in his Napa Valley district.

“Federal law prohibits me from having more than three shells in my shotgun,” Thompson said Monday at the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP). “So federal law provides more protection for the ducks than it does” for people, he said, referring to ammunition magazines that can hold 30 or more bullets.

Thompson, chairman of a Democratic committee charged with making recommendations for new “gun violence prevention” measures (Democrats want no part of being pro-“gun control”), is emblematic of the central plank of Democrats’ strategic approach to gun control: put on a friendly face.

Both Thompson and Mr. Biden, the leader of the president’s own task force, are lifelong gun owners who are quick to point out that no, the federal government is absolutely not coming to seize your arms.

“We’re on a little different footing than ever before on this subject,” said Thompson, referring to a 2008 US Supreme Court’s ruling affirming Americans’ ability to possess guns. “American citizens have a right to own firearms. So the idea that one side believes that we should take all the guns, it’s not part of the discussion. And the other side thinks we are trying to get all the guns, that’s not either.”

But a genteel sales pitch will get you only so far.

That’s where Chicago Mayor Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s former White House chief of staff, comes in. Emanuel is a legislative veteran, the point man for President Bill Clinton’s successful gun legislation in the mid-1990s and the man who put the kibosh on a potential battle over guns in Obama’s first term.

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