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Senate blocks expanded gun sale background checks

Updated Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | 2:26 p.m.

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U.S. Sen. Harry Reid meets with gun violence survivors after gun control votes in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

Gun control is effectively over for now, after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to pass a key amendment on expanding sales background checks.

Fifty-four senators voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey amendment, named after the pair of senators who drafted it, which would have required background checks for all public gun sales, including at gun shows and online.

It was a softer proposal than the underlying bill, which would have also required background checks for private sales.

But most Republicans and some Democrats still worried that the information collected through expanded background checks could lead to a gun registry.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid criticized such senators, including Nevada’s Dean Heller, for raising objections based on the potential for gun registries, calling such reasoning “absolutely false, untrue, and it’s unfair.”

The proposed amendment “not only bans a registry, but it creates a 15-year felony sentence for any government official found storing these gun records,” Reid said. “Claims that this legislation would create a gun registry is nothing more than shameful scare tactics.”

Reid and several other senators have spent the week reminding anyone within the sound of their voice that almost 90 percent of American voters support stricter gun control, according to recent polls.

Heller has frequently said he supports more stringent background checks; he just doesn’t like any of the proposals to strengthen them.

The math was always tight on the Manchin-Toomey amendment. Just hours before the vote, Democrats counted themselves, at best, three votes shy of the all-important 60 votes needed to clear a filibuster.

But supporters of the bill were not ready to concede defeat, recommitting themselves to work all the way up to the 5 p.m. vote to convince senators to change their minds.

Leaders even called on Sen. Frank Lautenberg — a strong supporter of gun control — to come back from a long absence he had taken for health reasons. Lautenberg, looking pale and frail, cast a strong “aye” vote for the bill Wednesday afternoon.

But it was not enough to offset the dozens of Republicans who voted against the legislation and the handful of Democrats who joined them — North Dakota’s Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus, Alaska’s Mark Begich and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor.

Reid also changed his vote from yes to no in the final tally, a procedural move that allows him to revive the legislation down the line.

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