A growing number of senators are trying to quash gun legislation before it even hits the chamber floor as Democrats hold out hope for a compromise and the White House gears up for a weeklong offensive to pressure Congress to act.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said as many as 13 senators now publicly support a filibuster on the motion to proceed on pending gun legislation, which effectively would block debate on the bill.
"When you're in a snake pit, you kill a snake any time and chance that you get," Mr. Pratt said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" that aired Sunday. "When you're dealing with legislation, you take your best shot as soon as you can."
Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week saying they intend to delay Mr. Reid's efforts to move a legislative package that currently includes measures to require background checks on all gun sales. Politico also reported that another letter with Monday's date now has 13 signatures on it.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Sunday that whether he can support requiring background checks at gun shows depends on precisely how they're carried out — but that there should be a debate on the issue.
"What are we afraid of?" Mr. McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Everybody wants the same goal, and that is to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally disabled."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, also has said he would not support a filibuster.
Federally licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks on gun purchasers, but the so-called "gun show loophole" exempts private sellers from the requirement.
Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, would need 60 votes to shut down a filibuster.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Sunday he remains hopeful and that negotiations on the background check portion of the gun legislation are still ongoing.
"If we go to the floor, I'm still hopeful that what I call the sweet spot — background checks — can succeed," Mr. Schumer said on "Face the Nation." "We're working hard there. [Sens. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, and Mark Kirk, Illilnois Republican] have a few ideas that might modify the proposal that we put in there. As long as they don't impair the effectiveness, I'm entertaining those."
With Congress back in session this week after a two-week break, the administration is launching a full-court press for lawmakers to pass gun controls. President Obama will make his case at the University of Hartford on Monday, a short distance from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six educators were fatally shot in December. Vice President Joseph R. Biden is scheduled to hold an event with law enforcement officials Tuesday at the White House, and first lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to travel to Chicago on Wednesday for a speech. Mr. Biden is also scheduled to appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday as part of a roundtable discussion on the issue.
"[W]here we are right now is that there's a bill in the Senate, which is the most progress we've made legislatively in many years to try to address gun violence, and the crux of that bill is what many advocates say is the most effective thing we can do, which is universal, enforceable background checks," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on "Fox News Sunday." "And so the question is, are we going to pass that bill, or are Republicans going to block it? That's the fundamental question facing folks right now."
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