Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 9, 2013

Families lobby on gun bill; Dems face key decision

WASHINGTON — As Senate Democrats approach a key decision on gun legislation, relatives of victims of the Connecticut school shootings mounted a face-to-face lobbying effort Tuesday in hopes of turning around enough Republicans to gain a Senate floor vote on meaningful gun restrictions.

Before meeting privately with senators at the Capitol, the families had breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden at his residence at the Naval Observatory, according to an administration official. That official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.

President Barack Obama's gun-control proposals have hit opposition from the National Rifle Association and are struggling in Congress, nearly four months after the issue was catapulted into the national arena by December's slaying of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn.

Conservatives say they will use procedural tactics to try preventing the Senate from even considering firearms restrictions, headlined by background checks for more gun buyers and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Democrats criticized Republicans anew for the tactics, which will take a hard-to-achieve 60 votes to overcome in the 100-member Senate. Democratic leader Harry Reid stood on the Senate floor before a poster-sized photo of a white picket fence with 26 slats, each bearing the name of a Newtown victim.

"We have a responsibility to safeguard these little kids," said Reid, D-Nev. "And unless we do something more than what's the law today, we have failed."

In a hopeful sign for Democrats, at least five GOP senators have indicated a willingness to oppose the conservatives' efforts to block the gun debate.

Sixty votes will be needed to head off the conservative stalling tactics. There are 53 Democrats and two Democratic-leaning independents, though it remains unclear whether any moderate Democrats from Republican-leaning states might support the conservative effort.

"The American people ought to see where everybody stands on this," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who said he wants the debate to proceed. Expressing similar sentiments have been GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

In a written statement, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a leader of the effort to block the gun debate, said that effort would prevent Obama from rushing the legislation through Congress "because he knows that as Americans begin to find out what is in the bill, they will oppose it."

The administration was continuing its efforts to pressure Republicans, with Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder making remarks Tuesday at the White House, joined by law enforcement officials.

On Monday, Obama pressed the issue at the University of Hartford, just 50 miles from Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the killings occurred.

"If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on their doorstep, then we're all going to have to stand up," the president said.

Democrats were holding a lunchtime meeting Tuesday to assess whether Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., had reached an acceptable compromise — or had a realistic chance of getting one — with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. Party leaders were giving Manchin until later Tuesday to complete the talks, and a decision by Democrats seemed likely in the next couple of days.

An agreement between the two senators, both among the more conservative members of their parties, would boost efforts to expand background checks because it could attract bipartisan support. Abandoning those negotiations would put Democrats in a difficult position, making it hard for them to push a measure through the Senate and severely damaging Obama's gun control drive.

In a preview of the Senate's debate, 13 conservative Republicans delivered a letter Monday to Reid. They promised to try blocking lawmakers from beginning to consider the measure, a procedural move that takes 60 votes to curtail, a difficult hurdle in the 100-member chamber.

The conservatives said the Democratic effort would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, citing "history's lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history's warning about the oppression of a government that tries."

Georgia's Isakson said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning" that "the issue on background checks is how far they go and whether they violate rights of privacy." But he also said he believes the issue "deserves a vote up or down" in the Senate.

Reid could try beginning Senate debate on legislation that has already been approved by the Judiciary Committee. It would extend the background check requirement to nearly all gun purchases, strengthen laws against illegal firearms purchases and modestly boost aid for school safety.

If Reid does that, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will join conservatives' efforts to prevent the measure from being debated, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.

In hopes of enhancing the prospects for Senate approval, Reid has been hoping a bipartisan deal could be struck.

Manchin has been hoping for a deal with Toomey that would expand the requirement to sales at gun shows and online while exempting other transactions, such as those between relatives and those involving private, face-to-face purchases.

Currently, federal background checks are required for sales by licensed gun dealers but not for other transactions. The system is aimed at preventing criminals, people with severe mental health problems and others from getting firearms.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has also continued working for a bipartisan deal. Kirk, though, is considered too moderate to bring other GOP senators with him.

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014