(CBS NEWS) -- Senate lawmakers today are beginning what appears to be their final
push to pass gun control legislation in response to the deadly massacre
at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to markup - essentially, readying for debate - an assault weapons ban bill, which would also ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as three other bills.
The assault weapons ban, however, is seen as having virtually no chance to get through Congress.
decision by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,
to nonetheless consider it in committee signals that the Senate is
taking a piecemeal approach to passing gun control legislation, rather
than trying to pass a comprehensive bill. That's because the assault
weapons bill, which has a good chance to clear the committee, would
almost certainly drag down the other gun control legislation if it were
part of a comprehensive package presented to the full Senate. Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the bill's sponsor, has acknowledged that
her bill faced "very tough" prospects on the Senate floor.
The other gun control bills scheduled to be taken up are a Leahy-backed measure to combat illegal arms trafficking; a bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., focused on school safety; and a bill mandating universal background checks sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Schumer bill would require nearly universal background checks
resembling a measure he proposed two years ago. It will lack some of the
provisions he tentatively had agreed to with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.,
who had been talking to Senate Democrats in an effort to ease the
background check bill's passage through the Senate. One of the
provisions not included is an appeals mechanism for veterans barred from
obtaining guns because they have been formally declared to have serious
Without the conservative Coburn's
backing, any background check bill will have a more difficult time
clearing the Senate. However, Democrats will continue discussions with
Republicans and an aide told the Associated Press that talks will
continue with Coburn.
Schumer's bill could be amended to
reflect any bipartisan agreement that is reached by the time gun
legislation reaches the floor, probably in April.
Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also have been involved in
the background check negotiations and said in a joint statement that
they would continue looking for an agreement with other senators.
is clear that ultimately we will need bipartisan support," Dan Gross,
president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an
Leaders of the GOP-run House have said they will act after the Senate produces legislation.
a study out this week showed that states with the most gun control laws
have the fewest gun-related deaths, suggesting the sheer quantity of
measures might make a difference.
But the research leaves many
questions unanswered and won't settle the debate over how policymakers
should respond to recent high-profile acts of gun violence.
the dozen or so states with the most gun control-related laws, far fewer
people were shot to death or killed themselves with guns than in the
states with the fewest laws, the study found. Overall, states with the
most laws had a 42 percent lower gun death rate than states with the
least number of laws.
The results are based on an analysis of 2007-2010 gun-related
homicides and suicides from the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. The researchers also used data on gun control measures in
all 50 states compiled by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a
well-known gun control advocacy group. They compared states by dividing
them into four equal-sized groups according to the number of gun laws.
The results were published online Wednesday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
than 30,000 people nationwide die from guns every year nationwide, and
there's evidence that gun-related violent crime rates have increased
since 2008, a journal editorial noted.
During the four-years studied, there were nearly 122,000 gun deaths, 60 percent of them suicides.
motivation was really to understand what are the interventions that can
be done to reduce firearm mortality," said Dr. Eric Fleegler, the
study's lead author and an emergency department pediatrician and
researcher at Boston Children's Hospital.
He said his study suggests but doesn't prove that gun laws -- or something else -- led to fewer gun deaths.
is also among hundreds of doctors who have signed a petition urging
President Barack Obama and Congress to pass gun safety legislation, a
campaign organized by the advocacy group Doctors for America.
rights advocates have argued that strict gun laws have failed to curb
high murder rates in some cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Fleegler said his study didn't examine city-level laws, while gun
control advocates have said local laws aren't as effective when
neighboring states have lax laws.
Previous research on the
effectiveness of gun laws has had mixed results, and it's a "very
challenging" area to study, said Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the
Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy. He was not involved in the current
The strongest kind of research would require comparisons
between states that have dissimilar gun laws but otherwise are nearly
identical, "but there isn't a super nice twin for New Jersey," for
example, a state with strict gun laws, Webster noted.
said his study's conclusions took into account factors also linked with
gun violence, including poverty, education levels and race, which vary
among the states.
The average annual gun death rate ranged from
almost 3 per 100,000 in Hawaii to 18 per 100,000 in Louisiana. Hawaii
had 16 gun laws, and along with New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts
was among states with the most laws and fewest deaths. States with the
fewest laws and most deaths included Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana and
But there were outliers: South Dakota, for example, had just two guns laws but few deaths.
author Dr. Garen Wintemute, director the Violence Prevention Research
Program at the University of California, Davis, said the study doesn't
answer which laws, if any, work.
Wintemute said it's likely that
gun control measures are more readily enacted in states with few gun
owners -- a factor that might have more influence on gun deaths than the
number of laws.