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Reid: I don't have the votes to move gun control legislation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday gun control legislation doesn’t have the votes to be approved by the Senate.

Reid said he, as a result, has no plans to bring a gun control bill to the floor in the wake of a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard during which a gunman killed 12 people.

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“We’re going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we’ve got to have the votes first,” Reid told reporters. “We don’t have the votes. I hope we get them, but we don’t have them now.”

Reid said expanded background checks are necessary to prevent people with mental illness from wielding guns.

“Background checks. We want to stop people who have mental illness from buying a gun. We want to stop people who are felons from being able to purchase a gun,” he said.

Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old man identified as the Navy Yard gunman, was killed at the scene. The FBI on Tuesday said he entered the Navy Yard armed with a shotgun.

Alexis also had an arrest record, and reports have surfaced that he may have had mental problems. An amendment sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks fell six votes short of advancing in April.

Democrats have since shelved gun violence legislation.

Some lawmakers have talked about the possibility of moving a bill narrowly tailored to focus on mental illness, but Reid said it was not practical to separate it from expanded background checks. When asked if it’s possible to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms, Reid said: “No you can’t. You have to have background checks.”

Reid said he would be happy to have help rounding up additional votes for background checks from “anyone that can.”

“I’ve talked to people consistently, and the thing that bothers me is the number of Republicans who say, ‘Yeah, we know you’re right, but we can’t do anything about it,’” he added, referring to the power of the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun rights lobby groups.