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US gun control lobby gaining traction

US gun control lobbyists.

US gun control lobbyists.

WASHINGTON — The Senate cleared the way yesterday for debate on proposals to curb gun violence, rejecting an effort by conservative Republicans to block consideration of gun-control legislation prompted by the Newtown school massacre.

The Senate voted 68-31 to open what will likely be weeks of emotional debate on President Barack Obama’s proposals to expand background checks for gun buyers, tighten restrictions on gun trafficking and increase funding for school security.

That margin easily cleared the 60-vote hurdle needed to break a Republican filibuster on a bill that has sparked intense lobbying on both sides, including by families of the victims of the December 14 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the powerful gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association.

“The hard work starts now,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said after the procedural vote to open debate, which was watched by some family members of the 20 children and six adults killed by the gunman in Newtown four months ago.

The measure, which would be the first major gun-control legislation to pass Congress since 1994, still faces significant hurdles, including weeks of expected debate in the Senate featuring many amendments that could make the bill unacceptable to senators who now support it.

If it clears the Democratic-led Senate, it would face a tough reception in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner would not promise a house vote on any gun bill produced by the Senate, saying it probably would be sent to the House Judiciary Committee for review. (Reuters)

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