Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | 4:13 p.m.
With no alternatives in the offing, Sen. Harry Reid has taken the first step toward bringing his gun bill to a vote.
Reid filed a procedural motion to set up a first vote on Thursday, promising that he would press ahead whether or not he has 60 senators willing to vote against a filibuster.
Last week, a group of conservative Republican senators sent Reid a letter saying they would filibuster any gun bill Reid tried to bring to the floor.
Tuesday afternoon, Reid wasn’t even sure he could keep all Democrats from voting to block a discussion on guns.
“I don’t get all the Democrats all the time,” Reid said when asked if he’d get all the Senate Democrats to vote to advance the bill.
But as the day wore on, several Republicans, including Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller, indicated they would not support drawing a line in the sand on regulating gun purchases before the Senate could even start a detailed conversation.
Heller’s position on background checks, according to his spokeswoman Chandler Smith, is that “any legislation designed to improve background checks must not infringe on Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights, first and foremost, while also keeping guns out of the hands of felons and mentally ill. ... He will not, however, support any plan that creates a federal gun registry.”
The bill Reid plans to call up for a procedural vote focuses chiefly on expanding background checks and requiring their use at gun shows and other fairs where people can purchase a firearm without a review. While the bill does not create a national gun registry, conservative critics have charged that by requiring background checks for private as well as public gun sales, the Justice Department will effectively have all the information they need to create a registry.
Reid has also repeatedly encouraged senators to offer amendments addressing other gun control concerns, including an assault weapons ban.
The willingness of several Senate Republicans to eschew efforts to filibuster the underlying gun bill means that Reid stands a good chance of at least opening the gun discussion — though it is unlikely many Senate Republicans would vote for the final legislation.
Still, Reid never promised that gun control legislation would pass — just that it would get a vote, regardless of the procedural roadblocks. Even if he can’t get the votes to clear a filibuster, Reid said, “we’re going to vote on these things anyway.”
“It’ll take a little bit of time,” Reid said. “But 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. And of course, mental health.”