April 11, 2013

U.S. Senate ready to launch gun control debate

Alan Fram / The Associated Press

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"It's one thing for two members to come to some agreement. It doesn't substitute the will for the other 98 members," he told reporters.

Emotion, always prominent in the gun issue, cropped up late Wednesday when Manchin met with relatives of the Newtown victims in his Senate office, telling them "this will not be in vain." He became choked up when a reporter asked about the impact of the family members' visit, saying, "I'm a parent, a grandparent ... and I had to do something."

Said Toomey: "Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill shouldn't have guns. I don't know anyone who disagrees with that premise." He said expanding the checks wasn't gun control, "just common sense."

Background checks currently apply only to transactions handled by the country's 55,000 licensed gun dealers. Advocates of expanding the system say too many sales — the exact proportion is unknown — escape the checks, which are supposed to keep weapons from going to criminals, the seriously mentally ill, and others.

In a written statement, Obama said, "This is not my bill," adding that he wished the agreement was stronger. Still, he praised it as significant progress, saying, "We don't have to agree on everything to know that we've got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence."

Gun control groups gave the deal warm but not effusive praise, noting that unknown details and some pro-gun provisions gave them pause.

The NRA said it opposed the agreement.

"Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools," it said in a statement.

In a letter to senators late Wednesday, NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox warned that the organization would include lawmakers' votes on the Manchin-Toomey deal and other amendments it opposes in the candidate ratings it sends to its members and supporters.

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