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US Senate Begins Gun Control Debate

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, accompanied by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, accompanied by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Michael Bowman
The U.S. Senate has voted to begin debate on sweeping gun-control legislation — the first major push in two decades to curb America’s death toll from firearms.
 
Despite polls showing overwhelming public support for new gun regulations and restrictions, it is not clear that any proposed reform will be approved by both houses of Congress.
 
The Democrat-led Senate began formal deliberations four months after a mass-shooting at a Connecticut elementary school brought America’s long-simmering debate on gun control to the forefront of the national political agenda.
 
Senate Gun Control Debate

  • Senate voted 68-31 to debate the proposed gun law
  • 16 Republicans voted with most Senate Democrats to consider the bill
  • The vote came one day after a bipartisan Senate agreement on expanding background checks
  • The proposed gun law would also strengthen mental health and school safety programs
  • The last major gun legislation to pass Congress was the 1994 assault weapons ban
A compromise between two pro-gun senators, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), over expanding background checks for gun buyers, opened the door for the debate to begin. The deal would require checks at gun shows and on the Internet, but would exclude sales between friends and family members. The Manchin-Toomey compromise also includes greater gun rights, such as allowing gun dealers to sell their products across state lines.
 
The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun owners group, issued a statement opposing the agreement, but said it was "a positive development" since it fell short of the wide-ranging background check system sought by Obama and many gun control advocates. The NRA opposes any new gun control measures as an infringement on the constitutional right to own weapons.
 
While multiple reforms have been proposed in the Democratically-controlled Senate — from banning military-style assault rifles to limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines to strengthening background check requirements for gun purchases to improving school safety — the final two, background checks and school safety, are thought to have the best chance of passage.
 
Wednesday, a bipartisan proposal emerged to block gun sales to those with violent criminal records or mental illness.
 
“Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill should not have guns," said Toomey. "I do not know anyone who disagrees with that premise. Now background checks are not a cure-all by any means, but they can be helpful.”
 
But several of Toomey's Republican colleagues voted against even debating such measures. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said firearms restrictions are ineffective and misguided.
 
“It is all predicated on one assumption, that I cannot [agree with], and that assumption is that somehow we think that the criminal element will single out this one law to comply with,” Inhofe said.
 
Fellow Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) noted the U.S. Constitution sets forth Americans’ right to bear arms.
 
“Any limitation on this fundamental right of self-defense makes us more dependent on our government for our own protection," he said. "Government cannot be everywhere at all times, so the practical effect of limiting our individual rights is to make us less safe.”
 
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, reminded colleagues of the horrors of Newtown.
 
“Twenty-six people were dead, that is the reality," he said. "And the worst reality is this: if we do not do something right now, it is going to happen again.”
 
Murphy suggested the freedom to bear arms must be weighed against other basic rights.
 
“Liberty is not about having any gun you want anytime you want it," he said. "Liberty also has to be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence. I mean, what kind of liberty did these kids have in that classroom in Newtown, being trapped by an assault weapon-wielding madman?”
 
According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, debate on gun reform could last for weeks. Any measure the chamber ultimately adopts would likely face a tougher battle in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where opposition to firearms restrictions is stronger. President Barack Obama has pledged to continue pushing for new gun laws until they arrive at his desk for his signature.
 
Several states, including Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland, have enacted their own gun control laws in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comments
     
by: robert rose from: maryland
April 14, 2013 8:45 PM
Banning guns and limitting the bullets in a clip will do NOTHING and all it will do is create a black market were guns and ammo clips are bought on an even bigger scale then they already are. Just look at this war on drugs billions are spent and you can go on every cornor in america and buy the drug of your choice just like someone going in a store and buying a soda. They only true effective way to stop most gun violence is to work on WHY those people choose to get attention,get even, resolve issues with there bullys or asking for help with mental issues or depretion or parents who just don't care. Those are the issues to fix not this lip service that is going on and will stop nothing! What will they ban next when someone uses a car,bus or truck a knife or a bunch hand gun bought illegaly?


by: Randyy from: alabama
April 12, 2013 12:01 PM
I was raised with guns, which doesnt make a a expert,I am vietnam era vet, diesnt make me a qualified as a gun control expert, but what I fail to see is why is it nobody looks at the fact that guns are usless without ammo,if you want to control the use of high power assult rifels limit the sale of that grade of ammo to those that are qualifed users of such weapons, that unless you are then you cant purchase or aquire it, one should have a permit to buy it,The guns are already out there. Yes go ahead with the background and mental checks, thats a good start but if you restrict the purchase of what it takes to fire it the paper trail becomes more obvious and less likley to occur, no this isnt the ultimate answer, but I feel as if it were implicated it could be the beggining of a solution, Im not against gun ownership Im against owning a weapon soley made to kill, not the family shot gun or the deer rifel that are used in the way they were meant to.


by: Keith from: Georgia
April 12, 2013 7:20 AM
If more gun control and banning assault rifles is really going to bring down Americas death toll from fire arms Then maybe we should ban crystal meth, crack and other drugs that Americans are dying and being killed for. Never mind i forgot these are already illegal. In saying this I don't see where more gun control or banning assault rifles will help anything except for the criminals to have easier access to the law abiding citizens of this country.


by: atliberty from: South Carolina
April 11, 2013 7:59 PM
"“Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill should not have guns," said Toomey. "I do not know anyone who disagrees with that premise. Now background checks are not a cure-all by any means, but they can be helpful.”

I disagree, because in principle anyone who is not in prison, supposedly protected by the State, has the right of self defense. Our current restrictions and these new proposals are lame excuses for either not keeping bad people in prison or in failing to allow a debt to society to be fully paid, regaining the freedom to exercise ones rights.

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