Democrats are pushing additional gun restrictions to the hilt this week, seeking to capitalize on the public outrage that has exploded over the Littleton massacre. “Republicans recognize that public sentiment is running with the Democrats on the issue,” he says, “and they are trying to maneuver carefully.” This means there may be a chance to get something enacted this week, but if so, it will be a hard-fought compromise. “Republicans would like to do something that’s just enough to give them cover,” says Dickerson. Should they fail, there are plenty of people who are willing to take the gun control issue into the 2000 campaign -- including one prominent Republican presidential candidate. Seeking to distinguish herself from the conservative GOP presidential pack, Elizabeth Dole told an audience earlier this week that she’s against concealed weapons and in favor of child-safety locks on guns.
In the first major vote on gun control following the Littleton horror, the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday refused to close a loophole that allows private sales at gun shows to proceed without subjecting purchasers to mandatory background checks. The largely partisan 51-to-47 vote was not unexpected and served as a potent reminder of the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association. More gun control votes are scheduled in the Senate into Thursday, and “the expectation is that those will also break largely along traditional party lines,” says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson.