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Gun legislation in peril in Senate

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Susan Ferrechio

The gun control measure that lawmakers were hopeful of passing just days ago is in serious jeopardy of failing to make it out of the Senate.

Republicans tell The Washington Examiner they are far from securing the 60 votes needed to pass a crucial provision on background checks for firearm sales that lawmakers had hoped would ease the passage of an overall gun control package that also includes federal funds for school safety and increased penalties for gun trafficking.

“At the end of the day, this is just running out of possibilities to get passed,” Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., told the Examiner Tuesday after a private meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers.

Opposition is coming from both parties.

According to Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “nine or ten” Republicans would be needed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the critical background check amendment. Democrats control 55 votes, which means about four Democrats, likely from pro-gun states who are up for re-election next year, plan to vote against it.

Known as the Toomey-Manchin amendment, the provision would limit a background check requirement to commercial gun sales, carving out a broad exception for gun transfers among family members, neighbors and friends.

Republicans said Tuesday the Toomey-Manchin amendment doesn’t go far enough in protecting gun ownership as defined in the second amendment.

“I want to expand background checks but the definition of commercial sales is just too broad here,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said, explaining his opposition. “Here it captures virtually every sale.”

Proponents of the gun control bill are now entertaining more changes to the bill to lure GOP votes, including language that would exempt from background checks people in rural areas who live hundreds of miles from a gun dealer. Such a provision might attract the support of Democrats like Mark Begich, D-Alaska, though he was noncommittal on Tuesday.
“It’s all being debated,” he told reporters as he hurried from a private meeting with fellow Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he is working on which amendments to include in the bill and that a deal could be reached on that as early as late Tuesday. Amendments so far include Toomey-Manchin as well as a provision banning many assault-style firearms and another limiting the size of magazines.

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