WASHINGTON -- Federal legislation to limit gun violence proposed by President Barack Obama Wednesday will be enacted only if there's a popular groundswell pressuring Congress to act, several New York lawmakers said.
Without strong public support, key measures such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines will die, especially in the Republican-controlled House, where gun laws aren't even on the agenda, the lawmakers said.
"It's going to be up to the people across the country to talk to their congressmen to get this done," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), who has worked to pass gun measures in her 16 years in Congress.
The shooting a month ago of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., changed the political climate, she said.
"We have an opportunity we haven't had, unfortunately, for a really long time. The shooting that happened in Sandy Hook -- this hit the hearts of a lot of people," McCarthy said.
"Some parts will pass rather easily. Some will be more of a struggle, but we'll work hard to get the whole thing done," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said he thinks there's consensus on some items, such as bolstering mental health programs and more rigorous background checks for gun purchasers.
All acknowledged the NRA's power to mobilize its members.
"If you look at the activists, there are more on the pro-gun side than the progun-safety side," Schumer said.
The last time Congress passed a sweeping gun control bill, including an assault weapon ban, was in 1994, despite an anti-government mood.
"The difference we had going on our side was that crime was still rampant. Police organizations and average citizens said, 'Do whatever it takes to stop crime,' " said Schumer, who as a House member authored the measure.
"The $64,000 question is: 'Will shootings like Sandy Hook and the others that have occurred mobilize them once again as they did in '94 when the crime wave hit?' "