Gun control suffers two setbacks in Congress

A Democratic proposal to ban the sale of assault weapons officially ended on Tuesday, when a lack of bipartisan support doomed the ban in the Senate. Also, background checks appear to remain in limbo.

March_on_Washington_for_Gun_Control_032Majority leader Harry Reid said he was withdrawing the assault weapons legislation after he couldn’t get within 20 votes of the 60 needed to avoid a filibuster. In fact, Reid said he couldn’t muster 40 votes, meaning that at least 15 Democrats or independents opposed the ban.

Reid also indicated that universal background checks, including checks on private gun sales, needed help to make it to a floor vote after Easter.

“There are a couple different background check proposals floating around,” Reid said. “All these issues are important and I’m going to do what I can to make sure we have a fair, sound debate on this but we can’t have it unless I have something that I can put on the floor to proceed to it,” Reid said in remarks reported by The Hill.

The current background check proposal was offered by Senator Chuck Schumer over the objections of several members of a bipartisan committee. Schumer intended it as a “placeholder” until a compromise could be negotiated, but that hasn’t been forthcoming.

Reid may introduce three gun-control measures as a package to the Senate, including two measures that have wider support: increased penalties for gun trafficking and more money for school safety. He’s currently waiting to see if a compromise background check measure can be part of the package.

Progress has been stalled over background checks over the issue of whether people who sell guns directly to others should be required to keep records of the sale, in the same way that licensed dealers handle a transaction.

Senator Tom Coburn said that was a deal breaker for an expanded background check law. Senators Coburn, Schumer, Joe Manchin, and Mark Kirk have been working for the past two weeks to find a compromise on checks.

Manchin said on Monday he was trying to find a way to work with the NRA and other gun rights groups on a background check solution.

Manchin spoke at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg News and said he hoped to convince people that “I’m not going to take your guns away,” referring to fears that more background checks would lead to a national gun registry.

But Manchin also acknowledged that he hadn’t been able to get a Republican with NRA ties to sign on to his plan.

Senator Dianne Feinstein indicated on Tuesday that she may try to add an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity gun clips onto future legislation.

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