What’s Next For Gun Control Debate? Amendment War

 @LauraMatt
on April 12 2013 3:31 PM
Gun Control
Background checks for gun sales were at record levels at the end of 2012, according to FBI statistics. Reuters/Max Whittaker

After Democrats in the Senate yesterday successfully blocked Republican attempts to filibuster a debate on the gun control bill, lawmakers can now move to pass the most far-reaching gun legislation in decades.

This is where the really hard work begins, as the open amendment process provides senators for and against stricter gun control the opportunity to further tighten or loosen the 2013 bill.

Sixteen Republican senators sided with Democrats Thursday in a vote of 68-31 to move the gun control bill to debate, but Republicans lawmakers are expected to offer up dozens of amendments.

Here are some of the top amendments and measures to look for as senators work over the next two weeks to pass a 2013 gun control bill:

Expanding Background Checks

A bipartisan piece of legislation unveiled this week by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., will be the first amendment to the main bill, and it may end up being one of the most controversial. It proposes expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales but exempting checks in transactions between families. The National Rifle Association, America's largest and most powerful gun lobby, has already shot this one down, saying it would do nothing to prevent mass shootings like the ones in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

Democrats, however, have high hopes about this proposal because of its bipartisan nature and the fact that Manchin and Toomey are both pro-gun gun owners who hold an “A”-rating from the NRA.

Assault Weapons Ban

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dropped Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, D-Calif., assault weapons ban bill last month for lack of support and to give the main bill a chance to succeed. But Reid promised the ban will be offered as an amendment. The weapons ban, affecting 157 gun models, would update the 1994 law that expired in 2004. (Reid voted against the original ban.)

High-Capacity Magazine Ban

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., plans to introduce a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. It is similar to the provision in Feinstein’s bill.

“We owe it to them to vote on this measure,” Blumenthal said this week, referring to the Newtown families. “There is no turning back from a proposal to ban high-capacity magazines.”

Armed Prosecutors And Judges In Courtrooms, Federal Buildings

While Sandy Hook was Democrats’ catalyst for new gun control legislation, the shooting deaths of a Texas attorney and his wife similarly prompted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to introduce legislation to allow prosecutors and judges to carry weapons in courtrooms and other federal buildings for protection.

Cornyn told The Hill that “prosecutors put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve the peace of mind to go about their work without fearing for their safety.” His Line of Duty Act, S. 698, aims to do that and allows for the use of ammunition magazines “of any size.”

Improve Mental Health Care

Look for the presentation of bills or amendments that would improve mental health care in America, as well as keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health problems, something President Obama advocated for in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. A bipartisan group of senators including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has proposed a measure that ensures the records of those with mental-health problems are placed into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as part of firearms-purchase screening.

The NRA has been demanding that gun control advocates focus on the mentally ill.

Anti-Gun Trafficking/Straw Purchasers

As part of their plan to improve public safety and get tougher on criminals, lawmakers will be considering the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Anti-Straw Purchasing and Firearms Trafficking Act. This would make it a felony for an individual to buy a gun on behalf of a felon or anyone barred from having one. The penalty for doing so is 15 to 25 years.

Expanding Concealed-Carry Permits

Politico reports that Republicans are expected to offer amendments to expand concealed-carry permits, making state-issued permits valid in other states. 

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