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Gun control groups focus all efforts on Senate

Gun control groups are now focusing all of their lobbying efforts on the Senate following House passage of two major bills last week that garnered some GOP support.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate to vote next week on repealing Trump methane rule  Joe Lieberman to push senators on DC statehood On The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit MORE (D-N.Y.) is promising quick action on the legislation — to strengthen background checks and to close the so-called Charleston loophole — but advocates face a familiar uphill battle in trying to win over enough Republicans.

Still, proponents are optimistic that a Democratic-led Senate, combined with an ally in the Oval Office and a weakened National Rifle Association (NRA), will help get gun control legislation passed for the first time in decades.

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"We have a slim gun violence prevention majority, but we have the majority, which we know includes eight Republicans," said Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC.

Eight GOP lawmakers last week voted for the background check legislation that would require unlicensed or private sellers to conduct a check before they transfer a firearm.

Schumer on Thursday promised to bring the bill, known as H.R. 8, to the Senate floor, though he did not specify timing.

“The legislative graveyard is over,” he told reporters. “H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands.”

The Senate is expected to take up the two House-passed bills individually. The background check measure received the most support from Republicans in the House.

The other measure would extend the time federal investigators have to perform background checks from three days to 10 days. Two House Republicans voted for it. 

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Each bill would need 60 votes to make it through the Senate, meaning 10 Republicans would have to cross the aisle to overcome a legislative filibuster.

Some Senate Democrats say they’re already holding conversations with Republicans.

“I’m talking to senators across the aisle, but the real difference-makers in this debate are the survivors, students, and family members who have made this issue a movement,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill about his plan for getting Republican support.

“The most powerful advocates for change are the people who have personal stories to share about how a background check could have saved someone they love -- that’s who my Republican colleagues have to answer to,” he added.

The NRA’s weakened state is also adding optimism to gun control advocates.

The once powerful pro-gun lobbying group filed for bankruptcy and announced in January that it will reincorporate in Texas and leave New York. It’s also facing a civil suit from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOn The Money: White House sees GOP infrastructure plan as starting point | Biden to propose capital gains tax hike Overnight Health Care: Pelosi pushes for drug pricing measure | South Africa to resume administering Johnson & Johnson vaccine | Early data indicate Pfizer, Moderna vaccines safe for pregnant women Texas, Stephen Miller sue to force deportation of children, other migrants due to pandemic MORE on Friday said President BidenJoe BidenBiden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies Overnight Defense: Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave | Pentagon chief: Climate crisis 'existential' threat to US national security | Army conducts review after 4 Black soldiers harassed at Virginia IHOP Feds expect to charge scores more in connection to Capitol riot MORE “will of course be talking to leaders and members of Congress about how to move forward with gun safety measures,” adding that it’s a priority.

A day earlier, Psaki said Biden is “personally committed” to addressing gun violence when asked about if he believes the Senate can pass the two bills. 

“I expect he will look for opportunities to be engaged and advocate for why these are not political issues; these are commonsense efforts to keep our children safe, keep our country safe and, you know, ensure that we are, you know, reducing gun violence in the country,” she said.

Advocacy groups such as Everytown, March for Our Lives, Brady, Moms Demand Action and Sandy Hook Promise say they’re encouraged by Biden’s commitment to tackle gun control.

White House Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondBiden and Harris call Floyd family after Chauvin verdict Julia Letlow sworn in as House member after winning election to replace late husband Congressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years MORE told advocates last week that the administration wants to see the two bills make it to Biden’s desk.

“H.R. 8 is important to us, Charleston loophole is important to us. We look forward to signing it, we look forward to getting involved to make sure we can sign it,” he said.

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The shooter at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, a self-described white supremacist who killed nine Black parishioners, was able to purchase a firearm legally despite an arrest on his record, which did not show up in his background check during the three-day waiting period.

Advocates held a virtual march Thursday in hopes of building momentum for the House-passed legislation in the Senate. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyWe need laws to stop gun violence, but we need to stop glorifying it, too Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Conn.), who authored the Senate version of H.R. 8, moderated the event. 

“Now the job is to bring this bill to the Senate and get it done. [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTim Scott to deliver GOP response to Biden's speech to Congress GOP state attorneys general urge Biden, Congress not to expand Supreme Court The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE [R-Ky.] would not bring any anti-gun legislation to the Senate over the past five years,” Murphy said.

The Democratic-led House previously passed the background check and Charleston bills in February 2019, but they never received a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Years earlier, in 2013, the Senate took up bipartisan background check legislation sponsored by Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money: White House sees GOP infrastructure plan as starting point | Biden to propose capital gains tax hike House approves bill to make DC a state NRA unveils ad campaign to push back on Biden's gun agenda MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), just months after the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Murphy’s home state.

But the measure fell just a few votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.

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If the House-passed version comes to the Senate floor, it may lose at least one Republican who was previously supportive.

Toomey’s office last week said that while he still supports the provisions in the 2013 measure, he has not taken a position on the House-passed legislation.

Updated on Monday at 12:02 p.m.