Senator John Cornyn said Republicans will offer an amendment to gun legislation that would allow people with concealed-weapon permits to carry hidden firearms into other states.
“I could see something like this passing with broad bipartisan support,” Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told reporters today. “I’ll be interested to hear what the objections are to it.”
Senate Democratic leaders say such an amendment could unravel support for gun-safety legislation being debated on the chamber’s floor this week. Adoption of a concealed-carry amendment could sink an effort to enact the toughest new U.S. gun laws in 20 years.
“I have a great deal of concern about concealed carry,” New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said in an interview yesterday. “New York City is not Wyoming,” he said. “You talk to our police in New York state, they think it really interferes with police work.”
The Senate measure would expand background checks of gun purchasers, increase funding for school safety and set new penalties for gun trafficking. It gained momentum last week when West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey agreed on the bolstered background-check plan, which will be the first amendment to receive a vote.
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said leaders don’t yet have the 60 votes needed to adopt the Manchin-Toomey plan. Democrats control the chamber 55-45, and support from more than five Republicans would be needed if some Democrats vote against it.
“We won’t get all the Democrats, I don’t believe, but we’re working on it,” Durbin said. “We’ll sure need help on the other side of the aisle; two or three have stepped forward and Senator Toomey thinks there will be more.”
The debate over gun control was reignited by the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to kill 20 children and six school employees. Obama’s gun- safety plan included an assault-weapons ban and limits on ammunition magazines, though they were removed from the Senate bill amid opposition from the National Rifle Association.
Asked late yesterday about the Manchin-Toomey proposal’s chances of winning enough votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he was “hopeful” it would be adopted because “it would be a shame when 90 percent of the American people agree on something we can’t get it done.”
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has promised votes on additional amendments to S. 649, including the assault-weapons and ammunition proposals.
Two Republican senators, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Ted Cruz of Texas, will offer an alternate plan that would add more mental-health and criminal records to the background database, without requiring additional gun purchasers to undergo the check, said a Senate aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Regarding concealed-carry permits, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has said people like him who have such permits should be allowed to take their weapons to other states. That measure, which came within two votes of Senate adoption in 2009, would make it tougher for gun-control advocates to support the legislation.
“That would be a bitter pill for gun-control advocates,” said Dennis Henigan, former vice president of the Washington- based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates stricter gun laws. Such a law would “block states like California and New York from enforcing their strict laws against out-of-state visitors who have concealed-weapon permits,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
The proposal to require states to honor concealed-carry permits issued by any state has been “a major priority of the gun lobby,” Henigan said. “In terms of the list of poison pills, that may be right at the top” as an amendment that could scuttle the gun legislation.
About half of the 50 states have some type of conceal-carry law.
Among those who have sponsored the concealed-carry proposal is Alaska Senator Mark Begich, one of two Democrats who voted last week to block the gun legislation from advancing. He and Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who cast the other Democratic vote opposing debate on April 11, are seeking re-election next year in states won in November by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Rubio, during an April 14 appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” said state conceal-carry permits should be honored at gun shows in place of a background check because “someone who has a conceal-carry permit has been background-checked.”
Henigan countered that “a lot of states that have very liberal concealed-weapons laws have virtually no standards at all for issuing permits.”
Expanding the use of conceal-carry permits has had widespread support in the Senate, where the proposal won 58 votes in 2009 when South Dakota Republican John Thune offered it as an amendment to a defense bill. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, was among those voting for the proposal, which fell two votes short of the 60 votes needed for adoption.
Rubio and other Republicans say there aren’t enough prosecutions of people who fail criminal background checks when trying to purchase weapons. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said April 10 that an amendment to expand prosecutions is expected to be introduced during the Senate debate.
Manchin and Toomey’s proposal would expand the current law requiring background checks for gun purchases from federally licensed dealers to include people who buy from private dealers at gun shows or over the Internet. It would exempt non- commercial gun sales or transfers between family members.
“If you are a law-abiding gun owner you are going to like this bill,” Manchin said yesterday during floor debate. He and Toomey are promoting their compromise as protecting Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
Mandatory background checks for most gun purchasers are supported by 91 percent of U.S. voters, including 96 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of gun- owning households, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted March 27-April 1.
If the bill passes the Senate, it faces an uncertain fate in the House, where there is widespread Republican opposition. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said he won’t make a “blanket” commitment to bring a gun measure to the House floor.
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