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Gun control, expected to be a focal point in President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, has become an issue finding increasingly scarce support from certain lawmakers in the president's own party.
Democratic senators from Western states say it is difficult for them to support proposed restrictions when they represent hunters and other gun-owning voters back home who are pushing back hard.
"I think in Montana we look at guns more as a tool, not unlike a pickup truck or a stove,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. “The fact is, it's part of what we grew up with. It's part of our culture."
In a TODAY interview with Tom Brokaw for a special NBC News report “Flashpoint: Guns in America,” Tester said many of his constituents fear new gun control laws could eventually lead to government confiscation of all private firearms.
“There’s a fair number of folks out there, when it comes to guns, that are concerned that any sort of ban is the first step to a bigger ban,” he said.
Already, five local sheriffs in Tester’s state of Montana have promised to ignore any assault weapons ban passed by Congress. The issue has become a prickly one in other Western states with Democratic senators such as the Dakotas, Nevada and New Mexico, where legislators are currently debating background checks for private gun sales.
In Colorado, home to two of the worst mass shootings in the nation — Columbine and Aurora — Democratic lawmakers have proposed holding manufacturers of assault rifles liable for death or injuries caused by the weapons.