Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let the "Sausage Making" Continue.

The past two days have been very topsy-turvy on gun safety legislation in Congress. On Monday, pundits were wondering if anything and everything was finally dead. But yesterday, hope sprang again as several Republican Senators (including Nevada's Dean Heller) decided to break an expected filibuster on a motion to proceed (which allows for formal Senate debate and consideration of legislation). And today, a deal has been made on background checks.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., were expected to announce a background check compromise on Wednesday. Subjecting more firearms purchases to federal background checks has been the chief goal of Obama and gun control supporters, who promote the system as a way to prevent criminals and other risky people from getting the weapons.

After weeks of negotiations, Manchin and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters late Tuesday that a gun control agreement was close.

The emerging deal would expand required background checks for sales at gun shows and online but exempt transactions like face-to-face, noncommercial purchases, said Senate staffers and lobbyists, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks. Currently, the checks are required only for sales handled through licensed gun dealers.

Though many details of the emerging agreement were unclear, Manchin and Toomey are among their parties’ most conservative members and a deal could make it easier for some hesitant senators to support the background check measure, at least for now. [...]

The gun legislation Reid wants the Senate to debate would extend the background check requirement to nearly all gun sales. Assuming the deal between Manchin and Toomey is completed, Reid would try to replace that language with their agreement once debate begins, a move that would require a vote.

The Manchin-Toomey deal still leaves in place a loophole for "face-to-face, noncommercial purchases" (however that will be allowed to be defined) and possibly other types of private sales, but it looks like this deal will allow for expanded background checks for other gun purchases that are currently exempted from such. But whether they, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) introduce this as an amendment to the bill or Senator Reid replaces the language himself, it looks like the bill's advocates are ready to accept this deal.

However, there are still some Senators who think even Reid's bill as is doesn't go far enough. We've talked before about Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and her determination to pass a new Assault Weapons Ban to replace and improve upon the one that expired in 2004. Last night, she discussed with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC why she still refuses to give up.

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“If they don’t help me invoke cloture on this bill, we’re going to vote on these things anyway. It might take a little time,” said Reid. “As I’ve said for months now, the American people deserve a vote: on background checks, on federal trafficking, on safety in schools, on the size of clips and yes, assault weapons.”

The Obama administration continues to fight to gain bipartisan support for new gun measures to expand background checks for people buying guns and ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is leading the charge to revive a ban on military-style assault weapons, told MSNBC that she plans to offer assault weapons bill as an amendment and remains optimistic.

“I have a commitment from the majority leader that I will have a vote and I take him at his word,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Tuesday. “What’s important to me is to dry up the supply of these weapons so that over time they are less apt to fall in the hands of grievance killers, juveniles, people who are mentally disabled and criminals.”

Last month, Reid dropped the controversial restriction on military-style weapons from the bill in order, he said, to save the larger piece of gun reform legislation.

Feinstein said lawmakers must press on: “It’s important to the nation to know where people stand on a matter that’s as important as this.”

As we discussed yesterday, this will be a process. It will take a while. And there will clearly be many amendments. Some amendments will be introduced to weaken the bill, while others will be introduced to strengthen the bill.

But finally, there is a bill. The bill is S 649. And it will likely get its day(s) on the Senate floor.

This has been a long time coming. But now, finally, the "sausage making" on gun safety legislation has begun... And progressed for a change.

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