Why haven’t Republicans developed a Pavlovian reflex to stop touching “legitimate rape,” the most electrified phrase in politics? Georgia Representative Phil Gingrey is the latest to stumble into the Todd Akin buzzsaw. Speaking before a friendly Chamber of Commerce crowd in his Atlanta-area district, the sophomore congressman was asked about abortion and detoured into an attempt to contextualize Akin’s disastrous musings about rape and pregnancy. Gingrey, an OB-GYN, has since objected that his position was “misconstrued” just as Akin’s was; you can decide for yourself by reading his full remarks here.
Liberal blogs lit up in outrage, but the kerfuffle overshadowed the real news Gingrey made during the event. The Tea Party-backed congressman became perhaps the most conservative member of Congress to open the door to specific limitations on guns.
According to an account of the gathering in the Marietta Daily Journal, Gingrey suggested he was receptive to new limits on high-capacity magazines, one of the potential restrictions Vice President Joe Biden’s firearms task force is mulling. Here’s what Gingrey said:
“There are some problems, and maybe these huge magazines even for someone who says, ‘look, I just use an AR-15 for target practice,’ but do you really need to be standing there shooting at a silhouette a shot a second or even quicker with that kind of weapon? For what purpose?…I would be willing to listen to the possibility of the capacity of a magazine.”
According to the paper, Gingrey also said he was “open to revisions” of a loophole that enables buyers to purchase firearms at gun shows without undergoing a background check. (His spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an inquiry from TIME.) Gun-control advocates say up to 40% of gun buyers in the U.S. sail through the loophole. Despite the widespread notion that any new restrictions on gun rights will be tough to thread through a polarized Congress, there is broad public support for imposing universal background checks. In a CNN poll conducted days after the massacre in Connecticut last month, 95% of respondents favored such restrictions. On Thursday, Biden said a similar consensus has emerged in his summits with various stakeholders in the gun debate. He noted “a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks, not just close the gun show loophole but totally universal background checks including private sales.”
Gingrey is not the first Republican to identify new restrictions on gun ownership in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown. New York Republican Peter King, for one, called for reinstating the assault-weapons ban that lapsed during George W. Bush’s Administration. But King is a moderate Republican from a state with stringent gun laws. Gingrey is a staunch southern conservative with an A rating from the NRA. His frank and specific remarks suggest that even amid the charged political landscape of the gun debate, there is some common ground between the two parties, if they can keep politics out of the way.