Senators mark Virginia Tech shooting anniversary, call for gun-control measures

The Senate is debating S.649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which would expand background checks on gun purchases, crack down on gun trafficking and beef up security in schools. GOP senators have vowed to block that bill, claiming it goes too far and infringes on the rights of gun-owners.

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The bill doesn’t include an assault weapons ban or limits on magazine clip capacity — although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised votes on those provisions as amendments.

Warner said the Senate gun bill includes the Campus Safety Act, which aims to prevent another incident like the Virginia Tech shooting. He said the campus safety provision would consolidate federal efforts to increase college campus safety by creating one center based in the Department of Justice that would provide grants and training on best practices to avoid campus violence.

“I am pleased that our bipartisan Campus Safety Act is a part of the discussions and debate that we’re having this week,” Warner said. “We’re not going to be asked to make acts of courage, we’re simply going to be asked to do our job.”

Both senators also said they’d support a bipartisan amendment on background checks from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Republicans expressed concern that expanding background checks could create a federal registry of gun owners and make it harder for family members to transfer firearms.

Manchin and Toomey’s deal would expand background checks to cover all sales at gun shows and over the Internet. Those background checks would have to be accompanied by records proving to law enforcement officials they took place. It would exempt gun sales and transfers between friends and acquaintances, and explicitly ban the federal government from creating a national firearms registry.

Warner and Kaine said that the Toomey-Manchin deal would help prevent criminals and the mentally ill from buying guns. The gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting suffered from mental illness and would likely have been stopped from buying his guns if the Toomey-Manchin bill were law six years ago.