By Jonathan Easley - 03/31/13 02:08 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday blasted Democratic efforts to pass new gun control laws, vowing that a bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the floor next month was “going nowhere.”
Graham singled out universal background checks as the reason he and other Republicans would vote against or filibuster the legislation. Graham argued that existing laws on background checks should be enforced before those laws are expanded.
The South Carolina Republican said he would not join a group of five Senate Republicans who wrote a letter last week to Reid pledging to filibuster “any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions,” unless Reid decided against allowing for alternative amendments in the floor vote.
But Graham said he would vote against legislation to expand background checks unless more was done to enforce laws already on the books.
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Next month, Reid plans to bring to the floor a gun bill that would expand background checks, toughen penalties on straw purchases of firearms and provide funds for school safety.
The portion of the bill on illegal trafficking of firearms has bipartisan support, but background checks, once called the “sweet spot” for reform by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have become a roadblock, as Republicans argue existing laws aren’t enforced and that the record keeping requirements it would entail are akin to a federal registry.
“This idea of private individuals transferring their weapons and having to go through a background check makes no sense,” Graham continued on Sunday. “Before you’d expand the background check there are 76,000 people last year who failed a background check and less than 1 percent got prosecuted. There are 9,000 people in 2010 failed a background check who were felons on the run, so before you expand background checks to include private individuals let’s put resources into the current system we have.”
Schumer on Sunday said he was still optimistic Republicans and Democrats could come to an agreement on background checks. He said Reid had urged him to find a GOP partner, with little luck so far.
“I called it ‘the sweet spot’ because it would do a whole lot of good and have a good chance of passing,” Schumer said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I’m working very hard with both Democrats and Republicans, pro-NRA and anti-NRA people, to come up with a background check that will be acceptable to 60 senators and be very strong and get the job done. It’s very hard and we’re working hard and I’m very hopeful that we can get this passed.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is also preparing gun-control legislation he will offer as an alternative to the package from Democrats.
The White House is digging in for a fight, and this week President Obama will travel to Denver, Colo. to tout the state’s new gun reforms that were just signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), a rising Democratic star.
The president is launching a full-court press to rally lawmaker support for passing gun laws. Last week at a White House event he was joined by parents of victims of gun violence and said that he had not forgotten the victims of the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, which sparked the national debate over gun crime.
“I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten,” said Obama.
“We've cried enough. We've known enough heartbreak. What we're proposing isn't radical. It isn't taking anybody's gun rights. It's something that, if we are serious, we will do.”
Many gun proposals backed by Obama are absent from the bill Reid will bring to the Senate floor, including bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity clips. But Reid has pledged to allow senators to vote on those proposals as amendments.
This post was updated at 11:12 a.m.