Gun control bill clears first hurdle in Senate


Gun control supporters have won the first Senate showdown over restricting firearms, rejecting an effort by conservatives to derail a package of gun curbs before debate could even begin.

The 68-31 vote gave an initial burst of momentum to efforts by President Barack Obama and lawmakers, mostly Democrats, to impose gun restrictions following the December carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pleaded with lawmakers to pass the legislation after showing pictures of the Sandy Hook victims.

Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives.

The legislation would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks, strengthen laws against illicit gun trafficking and increase school safety aid. Advocates say the measures would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get weapons.

Opponents say the restrictions would violate the Constitution's right to bear arms and would be ignored by criminals.

A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows 55 percent favor tougher laws covering the sale of firearms. That's down six percent from a February survey, conducted after the President's State of the Union address.

The number is essentially unchanged from the January NBC News poll, but there's a big political divide to the issue. Eighty-two percent of Democrats favor stricter gun laws while just 27 percent of Republicans do.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted of 1,000 adults (including 300 cell phone-only respondents) from April 5-8, and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) issued the following statement after voting against a procedural measure to proceed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's firearms legislation (S.649):

"I believe it is both the duty of our government and society to work together to protect children and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness issues who could cause harm to others. I welcome an open and fair debate on sensible ways to do that without punishing law-abiding citizens for exercising their Second Amendment rights. The Reid-Schumer bill goes too far and expands the government's power to regulate, monitor and control the American people's constitutional right to bear arms. I am working with my colleagues on proposals to improve our current background check system and the enforcement of current laws. Additionally, while we cannot prevent all acts of violence, we need to work to address the mental health gaps that exist in our society."