Senate will vote on additional background checks for gun sales

baldwinSen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said she is looking forward to today’s vote to expand background checks to more firearms purchases, but said getting those in place as well as other gun control restrictions will be a “process.”

The Senate is expected to vote today on a proposal that extends background checks to gun show and online sales, but the bill’s fate was uncertain until Wednesday, when Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., announced that compromise. Several senators, including Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, have threatened to filibuster any gun control bill.

Baldwin said she supports the bill, and the vote on background checks will open the door for discussion on other restrictions, like gun trafficking, an assault weapons ban, and limited capacity magazines.

Legislation on those issues are all waiting to be brought to the floor for a vote, and President Barack Obama has said he wants new regulations in all of those areas.

“Almost 40 percent of gun sales take place without a background check,” Baldwin told Press-Gazette Media on Wednesday. “This will be an important step forward, something that has been carefully worked on, across the party aisle. We have a common sense proposal that I think will increase safety.”

Baldwin said she was “disappointed” with her Senate colleagues for threatening to use a controversial parliamentary procedure known as filibuster to thwart any vote on gun legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has vowed to press forward and is expected to call for a vote today. The majority leader seems to have the upper hand in that enough Republicans appear ready to help Democrats break a filibuster, which requires 60 votes.

“These measures to reduce gun violence all deserve a vote in the Senate,” she said. “The public wants us to do our job, to consider these measures. The idea of a small group of Senators (filibustering) was disappointing to me. ”

In a letter to Reid on Monday, the group poised to filibuster vowed to “oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” The letter signed by 13 GOP senators, including Johnson.

“If the majority moves to bring up a bill that I believe infringes upon or threatens the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, I will oppose bringing it to the floor,” Johnson said.

Calls for tighter gun control to reduce gun violence have regained volume in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December that left 20 students and six educators dead.

President Obama traveled to Connecticut on Monday where he gave a speech at the University of Hartford urging Congress to pass gun control legislation. He also took aim at the group of senators threatening a filibuster, after citing polls showing 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks.

Jeri Boniva, executive director of the advocacy group Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said if approved, the legislation is a “step forward,” but the compromise doesn’t go far enough.

“Unfortunately, it’s somewhat limited,” she said. “A large number of guns used for crime come from friend and street sales, which is not included in the compromise that’s been put forth.”

Dale Raby, manager of Gus’s Guns at 1600 E. Main St., doesn’t believe any of the proposed laws will result in increased safety.

“Criminals and maniacs get guns somehow, they’re criminals by definition — they don’t obey laws,” he said. “It isn’t gonna do anything, it’s not going to protect anyone. It’s not gonna do anything about private sales. More extensive background checks, for what purpose?”

But Boniva rejects the idea that additional restrictions would be useless.

“The idea that we shouldn’t do anything because it won’t be perfect is silly,” she said. “Making it somewhat more difficult for criminals to get guns is the right direction for me.”

Correspondent Larry Bivins contributed to this report.

—initially published April, 2013 in the Green Bay Press-Gazette

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