Senate Begins Debating New Gun Laws

April 15, 2013

By Neil Bomberg

A procedural vote last Thursday that would allow the U.S. Senate to debate possible new gun safety laws represented a major move forward for supporters of stricter gun laws. The vote, which broke down largely along partisan lines, was 68 to 31 in favor of allowing debate to continue. Sixty votes in favor were required.

Last Thursday's vote opened the door to consideration of a range of issues from a ban on the production, sale and transfer of automatic weapons proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to a bi-partisan proposal offered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would require that most gun sales, purchases and transfers be subject to a background check including those made at gun shows and on the internet.

The vote to proceed with debate was preceded by several emotional floor speeches including one in which Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke about his father's suicide using a gun, another by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in which he called upon his colleagues to agree that as of "today there will be no more Newtowns," and another by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that criticized the underlying bill and said, "This bill is a clear overreach that will predominantly punish and harass our neighbors, friends and family,"

It is likely that the first major vote on gun safety legislation will be held this Wednesday or Thursday, when the Senate considers the amendment offered by Sen. Manchin and Toomey. That vote is likely to be followed by a vote on Sen. Feinstein's amendment to ban assault weapons.

NLC expressed its support for efforts to ban assault weapons in a letter from President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor of Avondale to Sen. Feinstein. The letter praised Sen. Feinstein for her commitment to reducing gun violence and expressed NLC's support for efforts to ban the sale, transfer and production of assault weapons except those needed for law enforcement and military purposes.