Gun-Control Advocates Say the Senate Bill Isn’t Dead Yet

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Photo: Susan Walsh

With the assault-weapons ban essentially dropped, no deal on universal background checks, and the NRA targeting proposed changes to gun trafficking laws, the chances of passing any kind of federal gun-control legislation have been looking slim. However, as the Senate returns from its two-week recess on Monday and takes up the issue again, there's new hope that a deal might be in the works. While talks on universal background checks between Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republicans Mark Kirk and Tom Coburn have stalled, in the past few days Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Patrick Toomey have come up with an alternate plan for expanding background checks that might be able to rally bipartisan support.

Spokesman for the two senators wouldn't confirm the details, but aides tell the Washington Post that Manchin and Toomey are trading drafts of a proposal that would require background checks for all gun purchases, except those between close family members and some hunters. The two are particularly eager to make a deal. Toomey is a conservative Republican whose home state of Pennsylvania has been leaning Democratic recently, and he's up for reelection in 2016. Manchin, the rare Democrat with an "A" rating from the NRA, memorably said he would support an assault-weapons ban immediately after Newtown, before telling the New York Times a month later that he's actually "not there."

Meanwhile, President Obama is stepping up his efforts to publicly shame those planning to block the legislation. The president has an event scheduled for Monday at the University of Hartford, which is just 50 miles north of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Joe Biden will hold a gun-control event with law enforcement leaders at the White House on Tuesday, and Michelle Obama will head to Chicago to discuss gun violence on Wednesday.

At least thirteen senators have pledged to filibuster any new gun legislation, but Politico notes that under the Senate's new rules, Harry Reid could get around it by promising each side two amendments on the legislation. Lindsey Graham has said he won't join the filibuster if Reid pursues that option, and on Face the Nation John McCain criticized colleagues who have pledged to block a bill they haven't even seen. "The purpose of the United States senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand," said McCain. "I don't understand it. What are we afraid of?"