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US Gun Control Effort Hits Legislative Roadblock

Families of US school gun shooting victims listen to news conference outside Senate chamber after a vote on gun legislation April 17, 2013
Families of US school gun shooting victims listen to news conference outside Senate chamber after a vote on gun legislation April 17, 2013
Michael Bowman

The first major effort to overhaul America’s gun laws in two decades has hit a roadblock in Congress. The Senate voted down a bipartisan proposal to expand background check requirements for firearms purchasers, dealing a severe blow to gun control efforts just four months after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Gun control advocates wanted a ban on military-style assault weapons and restrictions on ammunition magazines. But many were willing to settle for expanded background checks to keep firearms out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill. In the end, that proposal did not get the required three-fifths backing in the Senate.

“The yeas are 54, the nays are 46. The amendment is not agreed to,” Vice President Joe Biden announced as he presided over the vote.

Related video report by Chris Simkins

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U.S. lawmakers are considering new laws that would expand background checks for gun buyers. The proposed legislation comes more than four months after a lone gunman killed 20 school children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. VOA's Chris Simkins reports on a veteran police chief who is leading efforts by other law enforcement agencies to reduce gun violence without infringing on Americans' constitutional right to own firearms.

Four Republicans voted for the Manchin-Toomey proposal, named for the Democratic and Republican senators who crafted it. Five Democrats voted against.

Days of passionate debate preceded Wednesday’s vote. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said gun buyers must be scrutinized.

“Do we honestly think it makes sense to allow someone without a mandatory background check to buy an assault weapon that can fire up to 13 rounds a second?,” he said.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby argued that the government cannot prevent gun violence. “No amount of government intervention can prevent irrational people from doing terrible things,” Shelby said.

Opponents said new gun control measures will erode law-abiding Americans’ right to bear arms and do nothing to improve public safety. “People who steal guns do not submit to background checks,” said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley:

Backers of the legislation countered that the lack of a perfect solution to gun violence should not halt all efforts to reduce it.

“The longer I have spent in this place [the Senate], the more I am convinced that there are people who actually do believe that we should just go back to the days of the Wild, Wild West. That we should usher in a new era of gun control Darwinism, in which the good guys have guns and the bad guys have guns and we just hope the good guys shoot the bad guys,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.

Present in the Senate gallery for the vote were family members of victims of the December school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. They joined Democratic senators for a post-vote news conference.

“Today, fear, mistruth and brute political force won out over what is right, and America will be a less-safe place because of it. But I say to the [Newtown] families, do not give up faith,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

At the White House, President Obama called the Senate vote “shameful” but promised that the fight to reform America’s gun laws will continue.

After rejecting expanded background checks, the Senate voted down several other firearms proposals, including a Republican amendment to boost illegal firearms prosecutions and a Democratic amendment to ban high-powered assault weapons.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
April 18, 2013 9:56 AM
“Do we honestly think it makes sense to allow someone without a mandatory background check to buy an assault weapon that can fire up to 13 rounds a second?,” he said.

One of the facets of America's political process is the fact that frequently our leaders try to ban something they know nothing about. We repeatedly remind them that the guns capable of firing "13 rounds a second" do in fact exist but are already tightly controlled under the 1934 NFA. Not only is there a stringent background check already in place that covers ALL transfers of NFA covered weapons, but some of the FBI agents that perform those checks would have trouble passing one. We point out that that the legislation they currently propose covers guns that fire one round per trigger squeeze. But they apparently aren't listening. Rather than further confuse the good Senator with the facts, I would simply suggest that he try squeezing a trigger 13 times in a second.

by: Jeff Tavolieri
April 18, 2013 9:20 AM
As a violent felon, I couldn't be happier.

by: Paul from: London
April 18, 2013 2:58 AM
Here is a message from London - where the police DONT even carry guns -

When will America wake up an realise the scale of its problem. HOW MANY MORE DEAD ! and when will the senators stop harping on about the right to bear arms - This is the 21st century - Not the wild west .. What about the right to not be shot by a crazed idiot. I have been to the USA over 30 times - There is Far too much gun carrying.

The argument that having a gun makes you safer it just plain incorrect - Look outside of your borders at the stats from the rest of the world - More guns = more needless death and if you look at accidental deaths ie where children pick up and play with a gun left out you could eliminate this too if you acted more responsibly. ie No handguns.

So do what the UK have done
Ban hand guns
Only guns available are in locked places like shooting clubs
Very Very stringent check on who can buy
No automatic weapons (period)
No public carrying of guns (period) ie wearing them in a public place

Also control the sale of ammo - Ie bullets kill not the gun

All of the senators that stopped this legislation - As your president says - Shame on you. Nothing wrong with owning a gun - Just check stringently who you sell them to and how they get used. If you like your gun so much then join a club. Thats what my 16 year old army cadet son has done - He only shoots on a range.

I really feel strongly - Stop being insular and look at the rest of the world and get you house in order and minimise the chances more tragedies and violent crimes. There will always be sad deranged people out there that will find a way - However reduce your guns in circulation and you will reduce the deaths - Its a pretty straightforward equation that has no argument against.
In Response

by: Jason from: America
April 18, 2013 7:31 AM
Well, Paul from London. Why don't you worry about your own country. Who are you to tell us Americans how to live? We fought against your entitlement to tell us how to behave over 200 years ago and we bailed you out of 2 losing wars. You should be speaking German right about now. We carry guns to defend our right to fight against tyranny, both foreign or domestic. Go and keep your comments on your side of the pond and worry about your own sheeple. Maybe next time you need us to bail you out from certain destruction you will appreciate us cowboys.

by: Kpitikos from: Las vegas NV
April 17, 2013 12:19 PM
What next?? The way the US senate will go is slowily will put new amendments and take away all the rights of the people.
The same way HITLER did in 1938 Europe and you know the story

by: Greg McKean
April 17, 2013 12:18 PM
It doesn't help anyone except the uninformed and the easily swayed when you improperly label a NON assault weapon as an assault weapon. An AR-15 is NOT an assault weapon unless you have an agenda..
In Response

by: Bob from: nj
April 17, 2013 11:50 PM
jshattuck from: washington
How about a little substance in your comment. Perhaps a study of the ruling document of the US of A would help. Shall not infringe. If you disagree start a movement by Constitutional convention but don't try to impose your paranoia on everybody else
In Response

by: jshattuck from: washington
April 17, 2013 8:11 PM
a gun, by any other name, is a gun... is a gun.. is a gun. a narrow mind by any other name is a narrow mind. explain your delusions, this way or that, you're still delusional.

by: Adolf Schmidt
April 17, 2013 10:38 AM
One of my biggest concerns with gun control is the lack of enforcement by government agencies( mainly ATF). The gun shop that sold the guns used at Sandy Hook, had over 1000 gun sale violations when investigated after the massacre. Any store that sells guns and ammunition should have a FFL, and should be audited on a regular basis to ensure gun laws are followed. Why are these audits not taking place? Will any new laws have a positive effect if no one is enforcing them. How many lives could have been saved if our government would have enforced the laws already on the books?
In Response

by: Adolf Schmidt
April 17, 2013 3:08 PM
John, the media has reported that the shop had it's FFL removed for having over 1000 firearm and ammunition sales violations. Can you tell me how many, of over 1000 violations, lead to a criminal use of a firearm? I didn't think so. To have a FFL you must have your place of business inspected prior to opening shop to ensure compliance to firearm laws, then be periodically inspected to make sure the laws are adhered too. Nowhere in my statement did I say it would have stopped Sandy Hook. The point you seem to be missing is if they are lacking in enforcement of laws, will new laws be overlooked and neglected as much. I really don't care if they add 100 new gun laws, great. I am concerned that the government is not doing what they should enforcing any gun laws.
In Response

by: John Perry
April 17, 2013 1:52 PM
FFL is required to be a legal dealer in all the states since the Gun Control Act of 1968. Since the rifle request was denied and the only one at the scene was in the trunk then this must be about the handguns that require a background check since Brady Handgun Act of 1993. Now for there to be over 1000 gun sale violations that would mean that the ATF was not doing it's job. The government does not enforce the broken laws on the books they make new ones.

Bit curious as to where your claim comes in that stores do not have an FFL when there could not be violations without an FFL in place.

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