Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Party Rifts Imperil Gun Bill's Chances

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Party Rifts Imperil Gun Bill's Chances

Article excerpt

Many votes to end a filibuster threat over a gun control bill are clearly not translating into yes votes for the only background check measure that has attracted bipartisan support.

Deep divisions within both parties over a bipartisan measure to extend background checks for gun buyers are threatening its chances as the U.S. Senate prepares to debate the first broad gun control legislation in nearly 20 years.

In spite of a vote on Thursday in favor of debating new gun measures, some Democrats who are facing re-election next year in conservative states have said they will not vote for the background check measure offered by Senators Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, forcing Democrats to look desperately across the aisle to fill the gaps.

Republicans themselves are torn between moderates who feel pressure to respond to polls showing that a large majority of Americans support some new gun regulations and conservatives who are deeply opposed to them.

Further, an impending immigration bill may force Republicans to choose between softening their stance on either immigration or guns, but not both.

The Supreme Court on Monday side-stepped the latest test of gun owners' rights, declining to hear a case concerning a New York State law that requires people seeking permits to carry guns in public to demonstrate a special need for self-protection. The National Rifle Association had called the law "a de facto ban on carrying a handgun outside the home."

The justices gave no reasons for declining to hear the case.

The court had weighed in decisively on the gun debate in 2008, striking down a District of Columbia law that barred keeping guns in homes for self-defense and ruling that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to own guns.

But the court said at the time that "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools" were among the laws unaffected by the ruling.

Last week, 68 senators, pressed by the families of those killed in the school shooting last year in Newtown, Connecticut, came together to overcome a filibuster threat that would have quashed the debate on a broader gun bill. But many of those votes are clearly not translating into yes votes for the only background check measure that has attracted bipartisan support.

"We've got some work to do," Mr. Manchin said in an interview Sunday. "You've got some very close Democratic colleagues who are having some difficulties, and our Republican colleagues are trying to get comfortable."

Pressure was rising from both sides in the debate, which is expected to begin as early as this week.

A small gun rights group, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, has come out in favor of the Toomey-Manchin amendment. …

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