Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on Thursday in a private meeting with a pro-gun control group that the Senate will vote on a bill to expand background checks sometime before the 2014 midterm elections — however, to the chagrin of some gun control advocates, that vote would not happen this year.
“I think sometime next year we’ll revisit that issue,” Reid told members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots organization 100,000 members strong that pushes for tougher state and federal gun laws. “I’m almost certain of it.”
Reid said that the vote on an expanded background check bill cannot happen in the fall because lawmakers will have their hands full dealing with the debt ceiling and other fiscal and budgetary woes.
Last April, an amendment sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would have required criminal background checks for all gun purchases made over the Internet or at gun shows failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, falling short by six votes (54-46).
In the wake of this narrow defeat, both Manchin and Reid vowed to bring it back for another vote, but were coy about when the next vote would take place.
Back in June, for example, Reid told the Newtown Action Alliance, a pro-gun control organization founded by community members of Newtown, Connecticut, the location of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that “Background checks will pass the United States Senate. It’s only a question of when.”
Yet, some interpreted Reid’s open-ended assessment of the situation as a sign that the votes were simply not there, that proponents of the measure were having a difficult time convincing their peers in the Senate who opposed the measure to change their vote.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, who played a role in negotiating the terms of the Manchin-Toomey agreement, may have affirmed this theory, saying on Friday that they’ll vote once they know the numbers are there.
“We’re working every day to get the votes for a background check bill and as soon as we have them, we’ll bring it up for a vote,” he said, as reported by The Nation.
Though, some argue that there is a strategic advantage to waiting until just before the midterm elections to vote on the issue because then opponents who live in places where there was ostensibly widespread support for the expanded background check bill, e.g., Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), will have to deal with attack ads from groups like Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions, which raised $6.5 million over the past six months and the always formidable Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence while campaign season is in full bloom.
And if supporters of the measure fail to get the votes before the midterms, well, then they’re optimistic that the new Congress will see the light.
“When you look at what happened in Newtown, it’s a shameful and tragic and depressing and cowardly failure by Congress,” said Sharon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action after Newtown, told The New York Daily News.
“This is not the right Congress to get anything done,” she said. “The only way is to elect new members.”