"Whatever the merits of the measure," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan, "Republicans have handed the Democrats a great issue in the wake of Littleton." Though it’s no secret that both parties regularly cater to the special interest groups that back their elections, says Branegan, "Senator Larry Craig’s admission that the NRA had 'grudgingly' accepted the latest Republican gun-show measure was an amazing statement." It opens him up, and the Republican party as well, to questions as to whom they are working for. The Democrats intend to keep this matter alive as long as they can. They have a raft of gun control amendments they want the Senate to keep voting up or down.
It will be days before the smoke clears in the Senate from the week's debate on gun control. For the moment, though, Democrats believe they have hit a bull’s-eye. Not only did they succeed in getting the Republican majority to do a complete about-face on the question of mandatory background checks for gun-show sales, but they also pressed the Senate to adopt a measure against juvenile possession of semiautomatic weapons and a ban on the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips. Even better, from their viewpoint, the Republican mandatory-check system the Senate approved Friday by a one-vote margin contains enough loopholes to keep the Democrats talking all weekend long to any news show that will hear them out -- which may be why Republicans have indicated they’re willing to refine the proposal some more, if need be.