Senators, White House Work to Resurrect Gun Legislation

Friday, 26 Apr 2013 11:47 AM

By Melanie Batley

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A bipartisan group of senators is in new talks about a strategy to resurrect gun-control legislation after a bill to overhaul the nation’s gun laws was voted down last week.

The lawmakers are drawing on lessons learned from the protracted fight to pass the Brady Bill, which was passed in 1993 and went into effect in February 1994. It established a five-day waiting period to buy a gun, the New York Times reported Friday.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Toomey, who co-authored the gun-sale background-check legislation that failed two weeks ago, are looking at new ways to persuade fellow lawmakers to support expanded checks for gun buyers.

They’re considering a two-pronged approach that focuses on pressuring senators who voted against their bill while building a national campaign to highlight the public’s overwhelming support for such a measure, which nears 90 percent, according to most polls.

“We’re going to work it hard,” Manchin, told the Times.

A new bill would look to satisfy those senators who wanted a narrower background-check system. Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Mark Begich, a Democrat, for example, felt that the requirement of checks on person-to-person sales was too onerous.

Separately, another group of senators plans to introduce an anti-trafficking bill, which would criminalize the shipping or transfer of guns to people who are barred from possessing firearms.

New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand is working on the measure with Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Charles Grassley of Iowa. They hope it would the starting point for a broader bipartisan compromise, the Times reported.

“I think trafficking can be the base of the bill, the rock on which everything else stands,” Gillibrand said. “I also think it’s complementary to background checks because, let’s be honest, criminals aren’t going to buy a gun and go through a background check. So if you really want to go after criminals, you have to do both.”

“There’s a lot we have agreement on in terms of enforcing our current system,” said Ayotte. “And so I certainly think we should look for the common elements, including the mental-health piece, which I support as well, and try to move as much of that as possible forward.”

Among 22 senators from East Coast states north of Virginia, Ayotte was alone in voting no on the expanded background-check system. Her position has drawn the ire of gun-control advocates who have inundated her office with phone calls and have made their criticism clear in the media.

Meanwhile, the White House is launching its own efforts to renew momentum on a gun-control overhaul. Vice President Joe Biden gathered a group of high-profile gun-control supporters on Thursday, saying the issue is now his highest priority.

He said a number of senators have told him privately they’re feeling the backlash from the public and would consider changing their position if legislation was packaged differently and the political will was there.

“It’s not a question of really changing their minds for or against this policy,” said one of the participants at the meeting with the vice president. “It’s demonstrating that it’s safe to do the right thing and politically unsafe not to.”



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