Republicans in Congress are much better armed than their Democratic counterparts -- a fact that helps explain the deep partisan divide as Congress gears up for its first major votes on gun control in a decade.
One hundred nineteen Republicans and 46 Democrats declared themselves as gun owners in a USA TODAY survey of lawmakers.
There is no uniform public record of gun ownership by members of Congress, and it is not part of the information lawmakers are required to reveal in their annual financial disclosure forms. So USA TODAY and the Gannett Washington Bureau contacted every congressional office to ask: Does the lawmaker own a gun?
The results show a partisan -- and regional -- divide. Only 10% of Republicans who responded said they do not own a gun, while 66% of Democrats said they are not gun owners.
Michael Hammond, legislative counsel of Gun Owners of America, said he's not surprised. In Republican districts, a gun "is a campaign accoutrement," he said.
Plotted on a map, the survey results speak to the cultural chasm between those districts where guns are a talisman of individualism and those where guns are viewed more as a criminal tool. Only 12 lawmakers from the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, said they own firearms, while 77 Southerners said they do.
Congress' gun gap suggests that cultural factors are at least as important as the influence of the gun lobby in determining where members stand on President Obama's package of gun control proposals.
THE GUN GAP
Some members were more than willing to give an inventory of their gun lockers. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., owns three shotguns, three rifles and two pistols, press secretary Sara Lasure said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, owns a dozen, but her favorite is a 20-gauge Ruger, communications director Matthew Felling said.
Others -- overwhelmingly Southern Republicans -- declined to answer, even suggesting it was "irresponsible" for reporters to ask the question.
Again there is a partisan split: 36 Republicans in the House refused to say whether they own guns; 11 Democrats refused to say. Across both the House and Senate, an additional 161 lawmakers did not return repeated phone calls, e-mails and requests for comment -- 97 of those were Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he owns guns, though he wouldn't say what kind. His Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declined to say whether he does. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she does not own a gun, and Speaker John Boehner's office did not respond to multiple requests.
The White House has released photos of President Obama shooting skeet but asked by reporters Monday whether Obama owns a gun, spokesman Jay Carney said "not that I am aware of."
Obama is pushing Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, expand background checks for gun purchases and adopt other measures aimed at curbing gun violence. Any new gun legislation in Congress would have to pass through the Judiciary Committee in each chamber. Eight of 23 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee confirmed they are gun owners, but only one of the panel's 17 Democrats admitted having a gun -- Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
On the Senate committee -- which is drafting gun legislation -- Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island were the only two Democrats who said they own firearms, while six of the eight Republicans on the committee said they do.
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