It’s not just congressmen who have reexamined their opinions, according to Rep. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, a normally pro-gun Democrat whose campaign received a contribution from the NRA’s political arm during the 2012 cycle. “I was just talking to my brother a couple of hours ago, and he’s a much more avid hunter than I am; and he was like, something’s gotta happen here,” he said.

Holden, who lost his primary to a more liberal Democrat, said he would likely support reinstating a nationwide assault-weapons ban if he were still a congressman next year. Holden, in fact, voted for an assault-weapons ban in 1994, a vote many Democrats continue to believe helped fuel the GOP’s takeover of the House during that year’s midterm elections…

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., is familiar with the dilemma. The Vietnam War veteran and avid hunter, who supports reinstating the assault-weapons ban, was just named head of a House Democrats’ task force on gun violence. In an interview, he made clear the importance of assuring fellow citizens that the government doesn’t plan to take away their guns.

Asked how he can persuade his colleagues to support gun control, he responded succinctly: “Well, we can start by not calling it ‘gun control.’ ”