Watch CBSN Live

The Democrats' Gun Dilemma

By CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss.

New legislation currently winding its way through Congress is forcing Democratic leaders to face the serious problem the party has when it comes to guns.

At the heart of the matter is the question of packing heat in Yellowstone.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to attach an amendment to unrelated credit card legislation allowing people to carry guns in National Parks, something more liberal House Democratic leaders are determined to yank out of the bill.

A similar thing happened with the DC Voting Rights Bill passed earlier this year by the House and Senate. The measure, a priority of Democratic leaders and President Obama, would give voters in the District of Columbia a voting member of Congress for the first time since the federal district was created more than 200 years ago.

The Senate attached a provision to the bill wiping out virtually all local gun laws in the District. Outraged leaders in a city long plagued by violent crime were put in the position of having to give up the right to pass their own gun laws in exchange for voting rights in Congress.

The bill is now on hold because House leaders can't figure out a way to get it passed without the gun provision. That is the crux of the Democrats' gun problem – those who oppose strict gun laws now have a clear majority in both the House and Senate.

Though battles over guns are often seen as a fight between liberals and conservatives, they actually break along geographic lines. People in cities and close-in suburbs, where guns are more likely to be used to rob a house then kill a wayward coyote, want more regulation. Those who live in rural areas and small towns oppose anything that might limit their right to carry a gun.

As Democrats have dramatically expanded their majority in the last two elections, they have been successful in areas where people like to hunt - which means that many new Democrats oppose strict gun laws. The trade-off for winning elections in places like Colorado, Idaho and Alaska is a party that cannot muster a majority against the positions of the National Rifle Association.