Senators Report Progress In Gun Control Talks; Reid To Call Vote

   on April 09 2013 9:03 PM
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Even if a background checks bill squeaks through the Senate, it stands little chance in the House, which is controlled by the GOP and dominated by conservative wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Reuters

Senators said they were near a breakthrough on gun control legislation on Tuesday evening and that a final deal on expanding background checks for gun purchases could be reached on Wednesday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will call a vote on Thursday, despite Republican filibuster threats.  

“We’re going to vote on this anyway,” he said. “It may take a little time, but the American people deserve a vote.”

“We’re not there yet," said gun control advocate Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the Los Angeles Times reported. "We’re closer than we’ve ever been.” 

Schumer stood with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a gun rights supporter, after the two emerged from a meeting with Reid.

Schumer has been leading the effort to craft gun control legislation in the Senate, while Manchin has been working with Republicans to find a compromise on the contentious issue of closing the loopholes that allow many guns to be sold without background checks on buyers. The goal is to come up with a bill that could win the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster in the Senate.

After several weeks of stalemate, Manchin’s recent talks with Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., have shown the most progress, according to officials familiar with the negotiations. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who discussed gun legislation on Tuesday with President Barack Obama, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also have been working with Manchin.

“I’m very hopeful,” Manchin said. “Everybody’s [saying] how can we make it better. How are we able to improve things as we have today. And I think everyone’s been genuine. So I feel very good.”

Democrats appear to have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to the floor after a number of Republicans split with their leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, foiling an attempt by Tea Party-backed lawmakers to prevent the Senate from voting on gun legislation.

Currently, licensed gun dealers are required to submit all purchases for a background check. But guns sales not done by dealers, which may be nearly half of all gun purchases, do not require a check. Gun control advocates have tried for nearly two decades to close that gap.

A major sticking point in the recent negotiations has been whether private individuals who sell a gun would be required to make a written record of the sale, as dealers do. A written record allows law enforcement agencies to trace the ownership of a gun involved in a crime. Opponents of the idea say the records could eventually become the basis for a national gun registry.

Manchin met with Reid for about half an hour, with the focus on the procedural path for any compromise. Reid is aiming to begin the Senate’s formal debate on gun measures Thursday.

The senators also heard from gun-control advocates on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported, including relatives of those killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who arrived at the Capitol to press for a bill that could reduce gun violence. About a dozen family members of Newtown victims traveled with Obama on Air Force One on Monday evening after the president spoke in Hartford, Conn.

“We’re making people listen to us -- whether they support what we’re doing or not, they at least take that couple of minutes to listen to us,” said Jillian Soto, sister of Vicki Soto, a teacher who was killed at the school. “I won’t let my sister be another statistic.”

"We have a responsibility to safeguard these little kids,” Reid said on the Senate floor, pointing to a poster-size photo of a white picket fence that had slats bearing the names of the Newtown victims. “And unless we do something more than what’s the law today, we have failed.”

“We don’t have the guts to stand up and vote yes or no? We want to vote maybe? Tell that to the families in Newtown,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

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