Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s best effort to keep public attention focused on the gun control debate, a divided Congress, which began deliberations on the matter on Thursday, may ultimately spoil his plans.
On the positive side, two strongly pro-gun Senators backed by the National Rifle Association on Wednesday threw their weight behind an important segment of the bipartisan agreement on gun control that plugs a loophole in background check requirements at gun shows and online sales.
Even this, however, was seen by many in the gun-control lobby as relenting to the NRA’s refusal to accept wider background check requirements sought by Mr. Obama and backed by the families of numerous gun violence victims .
NRA welcomes it
After news of the compromise broke, Mr. Obama said: “This is not my bill, and there are aspects of the agreement that I might prefer to be stronger. But the agreement does represent welcome and significant bipartisan progress.”
The NRA, however, issued a statement opposing the agreement but added that it was “a positive development” since it fell short of measures that it argued infringed upon gun-ownership rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The long path to the Senate discussion on the gun-control bill this week starts from the December 2012 school shooting at Newtown, Connecticut and other similar incidents, and through Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech pleading for “a simple up-or-down vote” on the legislation.
After many rounds of negotiations, with a Republican opposition firmly committed to gun rights, legislators succeeded in hammering out this week’s agreement, which includes clauses to toughen penalties against illicit firearms sales and offer more money for school security.
While Senate Democrats and their allies across the aisle are said to have adequate numbers to fend off any initial attempts at stalling the bill, there is still the risk that the legislation may suffer setbacks from subsequent amendments and then be further trimmed by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Even as Capitol Hill was buzzing by mid-day over the discussion of the bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that lawmakers had to try to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting firearms. However he said, “Let’s get on the bill... [It] won’t stop every madman determined to take innocent lives. I know that, we all know that.”