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October 9, 2015

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Senate votes to go ahead with debate on gun control

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Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — The gun show will go on, at least in the Senate, where lawmakers cleared their first procedural hurdle to the gun bill Thursday morning.

Sixty-eight senators, including 16 Republicans, voted to have the debate on gun control, a vote that queues up a series of amendments on everything from background checks to magazine clips to assault weapons bans.

Reid thanked the Republicans — Nevada Sen. Dean Heller among them — who broke with the party’s leadership to vote to proceed with a potentially volatile discussion about guns.

“As a strong supporter and bold defender of the Second Amendment, I refuse to compromise Nevadans’ constitutional rights. It is because of my solid support for the Second Amendment that I am not afraid of having this debate,” Heller said in a press release following the vote.

But Heller has not yet said how he would vote on specific amendments that lawmakers are expected to offer to the bill, though he has outlined these guidelines: He remains “staunchly opposed to any proposal that would create a national gun registry” but believes its important to explore ways to keep felons and the mentally ill from accessing firearms.

Several families of the children who died in the December attack on Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., watched from gallery seats above the floor as senators voted.

“We all believe in the Constitution...but the families of the most recent tragedy in Newtown deserve a debate,” Reid said after the vote.

Lawmakers may be filing amendments to the gun bill as soon as Thursday afternoon.

The first amendment in the roster is a compromise struck between Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who drafted language that would slightly soften the regulations on background checks in the underlying bill, removing the would-be requirement that individuals privately buying guns from friends go through a background check.

Following that amendment, Reid said Thursday he would alternate between Republican and Democratic amendments.

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