Senate faces gun control debate with deep divisions
National Constitution Center
The U.S. Senate began it’s discussion on gun control on Thursday, with an unsuccessful filibuster from Republicans.Weeks of debates over background checks and other measures are expected.
Majority Leader Harry Reid had asked for a compromise on background checks from two senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, by Tuesday night.
Manchin and Toomey announced the bipartisan deal on Wednesday morning, which the National Rifle Association opposed immediately.
A group of Republican senators including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Jim Inhofe have said they will filibuster “any legislation that infringe[s] on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms.”
Toomey, a staunch conservative, became a last-minute player in the debate over background check measures that Democrats and Republicans could both support.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat, had been working with three other senators on a bipartisan background check agreement: Tom Coburn, Chuck Schumer, and Mark Kirk. Those talks fell apart when Coburn rejected record-keeping requirements he felt would lead to a national gun registry.
The two senators reached a compromise that would require background checks for gun show and online sales, and exempt any checks for private sales. Any transaction records would be kept in private hands. They also proposed a commission to study the causes of mass violence.
The NRA is also reportedly working on its own background check proposal.
Reid wanted to introduce a modified gun control bill this week for a full vote on the floor. Provisions about semi-automatic weapon and high-capacity magazine clips won’t be part of the bill (although senators will be allowed to propose them as amendments).
But the contentious issue of background checks is a key part of the legislation. Two other measures in the bill are expected to have an easier time in the Senate: more funds for mental health measures; and more funds for school safety.
Harsher laws on illegal “straw purchases” of guns may also have problems passing a Senate vote.
Another factor is the presence of moderate Democrats from conservative states in the process. There’s already been a backlash from some Democrats about New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to force the gun control issue.
“I do not need someone from New York City to tell me how to handle crime in our state. I know that we can go after and prosecute criminals without the need to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding North Dakotans,” said Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in a statement.
At least six Democratic senators are on record opposing expanded gun control measures, and 21 Senate seats will be up for grabs in 2014.
And even if a gun control bill can pass through the Senate with background checks intact, it still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled House.
+ Top Story
Charges have been dropped against three Black teens who were arrested while waiting on a school bus in Rochester, New York. “After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, I have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley in a statement Tuesday.
American students once again lag behind many of their Asian and European peers on a global exam, a continuing trend that often is blamed on child poverty and a diverse population in U.S. schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results a “picture of educational stagnation"...
An Ohio school superintendent, two coaches and a principal were charged by a grand jury that investigated whether other laws were broken in the rape of a drunken 16-year-old girl by two football players, the state’s attorney general said Monday.
The woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape was convicted of second-degree murder Friday in the stabbing death of her boyfriend. The jury deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching its verdict in the trial of 34-year-old Crystal Mangum.
Discovered in a private collection in Portland, the 1893 recording of “Mama’s Black Baby Boy” by the New York-based Unique Quartet was one of only two copies known to exist and sold for $1,100. The other resides in the Library of Congress.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday that partisan political elections for the Alabama courts appear to be driving judges' decisions to impose death sentences, overruling juries that have voted to send defendants to prison for life.
The final edition of Smiley & West, the public radio program featuring Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, will air the weekend of December 27, 2013. The show, which became best known for its controversial condemnations of President Barack Obama’s administration, ran for three years.
George Zimmerman is once again a free man after an arrest on criminal charges - but his freedom carries conditions. The former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin earlier this year was released from jail Tuesday pending...