Gun control: inklings of a compromise in the Great Gun Debate (+video)
Amid a largely partisan standoff on gun control, there are signs of bipartisan support on issues such as gun trafficking and expanding background checks for gun sales.
If the Senate is going to pass legislation to prevent gun violence, the early returns are that elevating gun trafficking to a federal offense and expanded background checks for weapons sales are in – but a ban on assault weapons and limits on magazine capacity are likely out.Skip to next paragraph
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That’s the upshot of Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Republicans argued against a proposed assault-weapons ban, while liberal lawmakers, largely avoiding the ban, focused instead on getting to "yes" on gun trafficking and background checks.
But amid a sea of criticism for President Obama' approach to gun regulation, there are already some signs of bipartisan cooperation, at least in the Senate. Whether any measures will be given a hearing in the GOP-controlled House, however, remains an open question because of little to no public appetite from House leadership to move gun legislation.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, signaled he would be open to working with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), the panel's chairman, to craft legislation on tougher penalties for weapons traffickers and for so-called straw purchases, where a legal gun purchaser obtains a weapon for those barred from gun ownership.
While Senator Leahy has introduced his own legislation on the subject, a separate but similar proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York garnered the support of Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois.
On expanding background checks to cover not only licensed sales from gun dealers but the sizable chunk of gun sales from private sellers that do not require such checks, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York said he was having “productive conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including a good number with high NRA ratings” in pursuit of a bill. Senator Schumer offered his hope that those conversations were “close" to legislative language.
At Wednesday's hearing, Leahy proposed marking up whatever legislation emerges next month, then taking it to the floor for a vote shortly thereafter.
While Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minnesota, openly backed a ban on the sale or transfer of certain high-powered weapons and limits on high-magazine capacity, many other key Democrats placed little to no emphasis on the subject.
Leahy, for example, discussed background checks and tougher gun trafficking penalties but left out any mention of a ban on assault weapons at the hearing.