Bloomberg News

Democratic Senators Say Deal Possible on Gun Background Checks

April 01, 2013

Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting

A couple stands in silence at a memorial for those killed in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Democratic senators said lawmakers could still reach agreement on expanded background checks for firearm sales, while Republicans said they wouldn’t support extending rules to gun shows or private sellers.

“There is a sensible compromise that we can reach on background checks,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who has pushed for tighter controls since the mass shooting at an elementary school in his state, said yesterday on CNN. “That unspeakable tragedy, I think, created an unstoppable momentum. History is on our side.”

Almost four months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, prospects for President Barack Obama’s gun-safety agenda have faded amid opposition in Congress and waning public enthusiasm for several of the initiatives.

Last week Obama sought to revive momentum, urging lawmakers to pass legislation to expand background checks on gun buyers, ban civilian sales of military-style rifles and limit the ammunition capacity of magazines.

Senate leaders have ruled out the assault-weapons ban and magazine limits. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said yesterday he was working with pro-gun lawmakers to write background-check language acceptable to both sides.

“It’s very hard,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re working hard.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on CNN that legislation that would require background checks on all gun buyers “is going nowhere.”

Filibuster Vow

Graham said that he wouldn’t join others in his party who have vowed to filibuster gun-control bills unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada “did not allow alternative amendments.”

Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida said in a March 22 letter to Reid that they “intend to oppose any legislation” that infringes on the right to bear arms or the ability of Americans to do so “without being subjected to government surveillance.” The letter also was signed by Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Blumenthal, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said yesterday that a compromise could still be reached that includes “all purchases of firearms, but record-keeping that is sensible, imposes no unfair burdens, and no unfair threats of prosecution to people who may legitimately lose those records.”

Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said on “Meet the Press” that while he couldn’t support universal background checks, “We do need to strengthen the background-check system.”

Sandy Hook

Graham said in the CNN appearance that a more extensive system wouldn’t have prevented the December 14 killing of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza.

“Nothing we’re talking about would have prevented Newtown from happening,” Graham said. “The guy did not fail a background check.”

Obama spoke March 28 as investigators in Connecticut disclosed new details about the massacre and as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which supports gun control, began a campaign of rallies, television advertisements and news briefings. The mayor’s group is led by Boston’s Thomas Menino and New York’s Michael Bloomberg. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.

Authorities in Connecticut said that Lanza, 20, spent less than five minutes in the school building before taking his own life. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said by e-mail last week that Lanza used legally purchased high-capacity magazines and “left the lower-capacity magazines at home.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Kearns in Washington at jkearns3@bloomberg.net; Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net


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