Gun control laws to be proposed in Congress

April 16th, 2013

On April 11, Senate lawmakers voted to defeat an attempted filibuster of gun control laws, following a series of emotional appeals by families of the Newtown shooting  victims to take action.

Despite pledges by high-profile Republicans such as Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul to vote in favor of the filibuster, a majority of 68 senators from both parties voted to allow gun control bills to be discussed on the floor, clearing the way for what will likely be an intense debate on such measures in the upcoming weeks, as indicated by The New York Times.

Despite the broadly bipartisan nature of the vote, it is not guaranteed that any measures debated will pass on a similar margin, or at all, as many of the senators who supported debating gun control have stated their opposition to any new restrictions.  In addition, any bill passed by the Senate would face heavy opposition in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This vote follows an April 10 unveiling of a compromise bill aimed at expanding background checks to purchasers of weapons online and at gun shows by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Virginia). The two senators described their proposal as a “common sense” measure that would prevent criminals and the mentally ill from exploiting loopholes in current laws while “…strengthening the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

The bill also has provisions for the commissioning of a study on the causes of mass violence, and a specific prohibition of a nationwide database of gun owners.

President Barack Obama tentatively voiced his approval of the plan, saying that while it was not as comprehensive as he would have preferred, it is a partial fulfillment of his gun-control proposal involving background checks.

However, the NRA immediately condemned the proposal, saying that it would not stop the next mass shooting and that the organization remains opposed to any expansion of background checking, a reversal of public statements the organization made in 1999.

Some gun-control advocates were ambivalent towards the compromise as well; Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, raised concerns that there would still be loopholes left by the bill.

Background checks remain popular among the general American public, with some polls showing roughly nine in 10 supporting universal background checks, even in households that own firearms. Such legislation is seen as being more likely to be enacted than other aspects of Obama’s gun-control plan, such as a renewal of an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Even in its diminished capacity, should any kind of background check legislation be enacted into law, it would be the most significant gun-control measure taken since 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton signed the aforementioned assault weapons ban.

Information from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal was used in this report.