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Weapons ban doomed in Congress, NRA says

Hints it has enough support to block bill

Selectwoman Patricia E. Llodra of Newtown, Conn., spoke during a meeting at the high school on the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting took place.

Michelle McLoughlin/AP pool

Selectwoman Patricia E. Llodra of Newtown, Conn., spoke during a meeting at the high school on the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting took place.

WASHINGTON — The powerful gun lobby is detecting enough support in Congress to block a law that would ban assault weapons, despite promises from the White House and senior lawmakers to make such a measure a reality.

Senators plan to introduce a bill that would ban assault weapons and limit the size of ammunition magazines, like the one used in the December shooting massacre that killed 27 people, most of them children, in Newtown, Conn.

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Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has promised to push for a renewal of expired legislation.

The National Rifle Association has prevented passage of another assault weapons ban since one expired in 2004. But some lawmakers say the Newtown tragedy has transformed the country and Americans are ready for stricter gun laws.

President Obama has made gun control a top priority, and on Tuesday Vice President Joe Biden is expected to give Obama a comprehensive package of recommendations for curbing gun violence.

Still, the NRA has faith that Congress would prevent a new weapons ban.

‘‘When a president takes all the power of his office, if he’s willing to expend political capital, you don’t want to make predictions. You don’t want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress,’’ NRA president David Keene said in an interview on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’

‘We’re not willing to compromise on people’s rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose.’

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Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, responded with a flat out ‘‘no’’ when asked on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation’’ whether Congress would pass a ban on assault weapons.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat and longtime NRA member, has said everything should be on the table to prevent another tragedy like Newtown. But he assured gun owners he would fight for their rights at the same time.

“I would tell all of my friends in NRA, I will work extremely hard and I will guarantee you there will not be an encroachment on your Second Amendment rights,’’ Manchin said on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’

The NRA’s deep pockets help bolster allies and punish lawmakers who buck them. The group spent at least $24 million in the 2012 elections — $16.8 million through its political action committee and nearly $7.5 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action.

Separately, the NRA spent some $4.4 million through July 1 to lobby Congress. Keene insists the group represents its members and not just the gun manufacturers, though he said the NRA would like industry to contribute more.

‘‘We know what works and what doesn’t work. And we’re not willing to compromise on people’s rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose,’’ Keene said.

The NRA, instead, is pushing for measures that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, until a person gets better. ‘‘If they are cured, there ought to be a way out of it,’’ Keene said.

Currently, a person is banned from buying a gun from a licensed dealer if the person is a fugitive, a felon, convicted of substance abuse, convicted of domestic violence, living in the United States illegally or someone who ‘‘has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.’’

States, however, are inconsistent in providing information about mentally ill residents to the federal government for background checks. And the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said some 40 percent of gun sales happen with no background checks, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or via classified ads.

Police in several Connecticut towns — and across the nation — say they have seen a large increase in gun permit applications since the Newtown shootings last month.

Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said the number of gun permit applications in his town has doubled. He said the department has handed out 44 applications in the past month, compared with 20 in the same period last year.

Police in several other Connecticut towns including Seymour, Branford, and Middletown also are reporting increases in permit applications. Statewide figures weren’t immediately available.

Gun dealers around the country have seen a spike in gun sales after the school shooting and renewed talk of a federal ban on assault weapons.

In Newtown, the talk about Sandy Hook Elementary is turning from the massacre to the future.

Some Newtown residents say the school should be demolished and a memorial built on the property in honor of the victims. Others believe the school should be renovated and the areas where the killings occurred removed, like Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., did after the 1999 mass shooting.

The community held a public hearing on the school’s fate Sunday afternoon at Newtown High School and another is scheduled Jan. 18.

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