US senate blocks plans to curb guns

A divided US senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns, only a week after Orlando’s mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists.

In largely party-line votes, senators rejected one proposal from each side to keep extremists from acquiring guns and a second shoring up the government’s system of required background checks for many firearms purchases.

With the chamber’s visitors’ galleries unusually crowded — including the relatives of victims of past mass shootings — each measure fell short of the 60 votes needed to progress. Democrats called the Republican proposals unacceptably weak, while Republicans said the Democratic plans were too restrictive.

The chamber first voted on dueling proposals related to the federal background checks systems.

The Republican amendment, which aimed to pour more resources into prosecuting violations of the current background checks system but did not expand it in any way, fell short by a vote of 53 to 47.

The Democratic alternative, which would have required background checks for all gun sales except for gifts and loans between immediate family members, failed by 44 to 56.

The stalemate underscored the pressure on each party to stand firm on the emotional issue going into November’s presidential and congressional elections.

It also highlighted the potency of the National Rifle Association, which urged its huge and fiercely loyal membership to lobby senators to oppose the Democratic bills.

“Republicans say, ‘Hey look, we tried,’” said senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “And all the time, their cheerleaders, the bosses at the NRA, are cheering them.”

That the four roll-call votes occurred at all was testament to the political currents buffeting lawmakers after Omar Mateen’s June 12 attack on a gay nightclub.

The 49 victims who died made it the largest mass shooting in recent US history, topping a string of such incidents that have punctuated recent years.

The FBI said Mateen — a focus of two terror investigations that were dropped — described himself as an Islamic soldier in a 911 call during the shootings.

That let gun control advocates add national security and the spectre of terrorism to their arguments for firearms curbs.


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