The Senate Thursday ended a filibuster blocking the introduction of a gun control bill by a vote of 68-31, clearing the way for it to come to the floor. Sixteen Republicans joined all but two Democrats in voting to allow the start of what is sure to be an impassioned debate on a host of gun measures.
Gun control legislation, which gained momentum after the school shooting last December in Newtown, Conn., had seemingly come to a standstill as the powerful gun rights lobby argued against any new measures restricting access to guns. But a bipartisan deal between Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin may revive the possibility that a bill can actually pass.
The senators Wednesday unveiled a bill that would end the "gun show loophole" and require background checks on all commercial gun purchases. This would include sales at gun shows as well as online. "I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control," Toomey said. "I consider it to be common sense."
The Pennsylvania Republican, who currently has an 'A' rating from the National Rifle Association for his voting record on guns, said the proposal doesn't infringe upon Second Amendment rights. He also said he isn't afraid of jeopardizing his reputation with the organization, which is opposed to the compromise on background checks and frequently uses its clout to deter legislators from supporting bills it doesn't like. The NRA said any upcoming votes on gun control legislation will be used in future evaluations of members of congress. NRA lobbysit Chris Cox said in a letter:
Expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools … Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA's future candidate evaluations.
The bipartisan deal on background checks will be offered as an amendment to the Democratic bill now cleared to come to the floor for debate. Other amendments to the bill include one proposed by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein banning assault weapons.
Friday the Senate will vote again to begin formal debate on the bill. "There are powerful feelings about each of these proposals – both strong support and strong opposition," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "But whichever side you are on, we ought to be able to agree to engage in a thoughtful debate about these measures. We ought to be able to agree to a careful examination of the culture of violence that has grown in this nation. I am pleased that a number of reasonable Republicans have joined Democrats in welcoming this debate."
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