The Norman Transcript

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April 12, 2013

Gun control bill clears hurdle

WASHINGTON — Congress’ most serious gun-control effort in years cleared its first hurdle Thursday as the Senate pushed past conservatives’ attempted blockade under the teary gaze of families of victims of December’s Connecticut school shootings.

The bipartisan 68-31 vote rebuffed an effort to keep debate from even starting, giving an early victory — and perhaps political momentum — to President Barack Obama and his gun control allies. Four months after 20 first-graders and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed, relatives watching the vote from a gallery overlooking the Senate floor dabbed at tears and clasped hands, some seeming to pray.

Even so, few supporters of the legislation are confident of victory. Several weeks of emotional, unpredictable Senate debate lie ahead, and a mix of gun-rights amendments, opposition from the National Rifle Association and skepticism from House Republican leaders leave big questions about what will emerge from Congress. Foes of the proposed new restrictions say they would penalize law-abiding citizens and do nothing to curb gun violence.

“The hard work starts now,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who brought the legislation to the floor for debate.

Hoping to bring pressure on Congress to act on gun control, supporters of new restrictions have been demonstrating in Washington. They have erected a mock graveyard with thousands of crosses on the National Mall, symbolizing victims of gun violence.

The Senate’s firearms bill would subject nearly all gun buyers to background checks, add muscle to federal laws barring illicit firearm sales and provide slightly more money for school safety measures.

Excluded and facing near-certain defeat in upcoming votes were proposals to ban military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — factors in the Newtown killings some other recent mass shootings. But keeping those provisions out of the current legislation did not mollify critics.

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