WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly a year after the Senate rejected an effort to expand background checks for gun buyers, top Senate Democrats said Thursday that they still lack the votes to successfully revisit the issue.
A day after the latest shootings in Fort Hood in Texas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters, "I would like to be able to bring it back up, but I need some more votes."
Reid's comments were echoed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey authored the pivotal measure that the Senate defeated last April 17. Manchin said he's received "no firm commitments" for additional support, and didn't expect to see the measure on the floor again unless proponents had more votes in hand.
The measure by Manchin and Toomey was a response to the December 2012 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. It became one of President Barack Obama's top priorities, but the bill was scuttled in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association.
Senators voted 54-46 for the legislation last year, short of the 60 votes it would have needed for passage. Four Republicans backed the proposal while four Democrats were against it.
Obama and top Democrats spoke of revisiting the issue, but it hasn't happened and seems unlikely to soon. The vote was a tough one for several Democrats facing re-election this year in conservative states, and few from the party are clamoring for another vote as Democrats try keeping Republicans from capturing control of the chamber in November's elections.
Thursday's Fort Hood shooting left four people dead, including the soldier who launched the attack, Spc. Ivan Lopez, and 16 wounded. A spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico National Guard, in which Lopez had served, and members of his family in Puerto Rico confirmed that he was the gunman.
The military has not yet released the gunman's name or cited a reason for the attack. Army Secretary John McHugh said the gunman, who saw no combat during four months in Iraq in 2011, visited a psychiatrist last month and exhibited no signs of potential violence. Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, Fort Hood's senior officer, said the gunman was taking medication after seeking help for depression, anxiety and other problems.
"Couldn't we at least have background checks so people who are ill mentally or who are felons couldn't buy guns?" Reid said Thursday. "Even NRA members support that so I hope we can bring it back up."
Background checks, aimed at keeping criminals and the mentally ill from buying firearms, are required only for sales handled by federally licensed gun dealers. The bill by Manchin and Toomey would have extended the requirement to commercial sales over the Internet and at gun shows.
A 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood left 13 dead and more than 30 hurt.