Republicans Under The Gun

Prospects for final Congressional approval of landmark, yet modest, gun-control measures improved Tuesday. House Republican leaders now say they'll support mandatory trigger locks and other Senate-approved proposals to keep guns out of the hands of the young, but they won't be rushed into a quick vote.

Littleton was a tragedy beyond description, but the public outrage in its wake has changed the Washington landscape, reports CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. Before all this happened, House Republican leaders had no plans to consider any gun legislation this year.

Dennis Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the House, said Tuesday: "We support tightening laws to bring uniformity between gun shows and gun shops. We support instant background checks at gun shows. We intend to bring these measures to the floor of the House and we believe they will pass."

That amounts to an endorsement of the gun-control measures included in a juvenile crime bill passed by the Senate last week.

Hastert, R-Ill., said the final product would require gun sellers to provide safety devices, background checks at gun shows and other gun-control measures. Hastert's office said the details of those provisions were being worked out, and they might differ in some respects from those passed by the Senate.

"We support common-sense legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of unsupervised children," Hastert said in a floor speech.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., said he hoped to get the bill to the House floor by mid-June.

But both Hastert and Hyde said they will not be rushed into a vote by Democrats demanding immediate action on the Senate-passed legislation.

"We don't want to be stampeded. We want this to be a good bill," Hyde said at a news conference.

Feeling they've finally got Republicans in retreat on the volatile gun issue, Democrats will try to force an early vote this week.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said, "It is our responsibility to pass this legislation before the schools of this country go out of session in the next week or two."

Democrats claim a delay will give the gun lobby time to regroup.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said, "People will forget Columbine. Things will calm down and then you can bury this legislation."

To emphasize the urgency, Democrats will try to keep Congress in session over Memorial Day weekend to deal with guns. That won't happen. Congress working on Memorial Day is as unlikely as the dome falling off the Capitol.

But the mood has changed. And with the Republican Speaker now pushing it, some kind of gun control legislation seems likely to pass before summer is out.