WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate set a long-awaited vote for today on a bipartisan plan for expanding background checks to more firearms buyers, with supporters facing a steeply uphill path to victory.
By scheduling the roll call, Senate leaders ensured a showdown over the cornerstone of an effort by gun control supporters to tighten firearms laws following December’s killings of 20 students and six aides at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The Senate planned to vote on eight other amendments as well to a Democratic gun control bill that besides expanding background checks, would tighten laws against gun trafficking and boost school safety aid.
They included Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, which are expected to lose; a Republican proposal requiring states to honor other states’ permits allowing concealed weapons, which faces a close vote; and a broad GOP substitute for the overall gun measure.
The focus of both sides has been on a compromise by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., broadening background checks. It will be the first amendment voted on Wednesday. Despite appearances at the Capitol on Wednesday by wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, proponents seem to face enough potential opponents to derail their endeavor unless they can figure out how to win more votes.
No. 2 Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, his party’s chief vote counter, left a lunch of Democratic senators saying they would need support from nine or 10 Republicans — a tall order.
Attending Tuesday’s Senate lunch was Giffords, the Arizona Democrat severely hurt in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. The two, gun owners both, have started a political committee that backs candidates who favor gun restrictions.
“His message was, ‘We’ve been through this,’” Durbin said, describing Kelly’s remarks to the lawmakers. “‘We’re ready to fight back to stand up for those who have the courage to vote for gun safety.’”