Reid to Unveil Gun Legislation for Senate Action in April

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is preparing gun legislation for floor action in April that will be a slimmed-down version of measures to curb gun violence approved by the Judiciary Committee.

The bill will include additional federal aid for school safety, tougher penalties for gun trafficking and expanded background checks for gun purchases, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement today in Washington.

He said supporters of a proposed ban on assault-weapon sales will be given the chance to offer it as an amendment. Reid said earlier this week that the proposal by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California lacked the votes to advance in the chamber and wouldn’t be included in the bill.

Congress is considering tighter gun regulations following the Dec. 14 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six school employees.

Reid said he hopes negotiators will reach a compromise on a plan to expand background checks during the congressional recess that starts March 23. If so, he would consider including the language in the measure, he said.

A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases to include sales at gun shows is opposed by the National Rifle Association and a number of Republicans in Congress. Polls show a majority of Americans endorse mandatory gun background checks.

“The bill I advance tonight will serve as the basis for opening debate,” Reid said in his statement. “Once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines” and other amendments will receive votes, he said.

Assault Weapons

Earlier this week, Reid said he wouldn’t include the assault-weapons ban in the legislation because fewer than 40 senators support it. Including it would make it impossible to start debate as Republicans would block the measure, he said.

The provision to impose a maximum 15-year sentence for “straw purchases” of guns is “the most likely bill to pass” the Senate this year, second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters yesterday at a Wall Street Journal breakfast.

Feinstein’s proposed assault-weapons ban is “the toughest one and the hottest politically,” Durbin said. Feinstein’s proposal to limit the size of large-capacity ammunition magazines “has a better chance of passage” with the odds “maybe over 50” percent, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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