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Senate Democrats end filibuster on proposed new gun laws

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on the floor of the Senate. He launched a filibuster demanding a vote on gun control measures.
(Associated Press)

A 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats to try to block gun sales to suspected terrorists ended before dawn Thursday without any clear sign that the proposals will pass when votes are held next week.

The dramatic talkathon, days after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., gave Democrats a chance to voice their frustration at the congressional impasse on gun control while they tried to reconcile potential measures with Republicans.

The Senate is likely to vote on two of the Democrats’ proposals as early as Monday as amendments to a spending bill.

One amendment would bar those on federal terrorism watch lists from purchasing firearms. The other would mandate background checks for sales and gun shows and over the Internet.

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It’s not clear whether Democrats can get the votes to pass the amendments in the GOP-led chamber, and even less clear whether the GOP-led House will agree.

“We don’t know,” Sen Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said when asked whether the restrictions would pass.

But he expressed hope, adding, “For the first time, a few of our colleagues are actually saying, ‘We ought to do something.’”

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Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), who launched the filibuster at 11:21 a.m. Wednesday and ended it at 2:11 a.m. Thursday, said Republican leaders had agreed to hold votes on the Democrat-backed measures.

“We still have to get from here to there, but we did not have that commitment when we started,” he told reporters.

He credited the filibuster with pressuring Republican leaders to allow a vote. But he added there was “no guarantee that those amendments will pass.”

The slaying of 49 people in a gay nightclub Sunday in Orlando again raised concerns over why people on the FBI’s terrorism watch list and no-fly list can legally purchase weapons.

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“You can’t do a no-fly bill, you can’t do a terrorist watch list, and then leave a loophole,” Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) told reporters.

The Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, was on the FBI’s terrorism watch list for 10 months in 2013 and 2014, but his name was removed when the FBI closed its investigation of him. Mateen legally purchased a semiautomatic rifle and a handgun this month.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she was preparing a proposal that would deny guns to those on the watch list going back five years. That would have covered Mateen.

Opponents of the legislation say they are concerned that people may be added to a terrorism watch list by mistake and unfairly blocked from purchasing firearms.

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Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said he would introduce a bill that would require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review requests from the attorney general to block individual terrorism suspects from buying or selling guns.

Senate Democrats said Thursday the legislation presented by Toomey and past legislation from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) would not produce real change.

Schumer said their proposals would “almost never” prevent a terrorist from buying a weapon.

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The National Rifle Assn. released a statement after the filibuster began, calling for a process that allows people to appeal their being added to any watch lists.

Murphy’s filibuster outlasted one led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in 2013, which had held the record for the longest in the last 20 years.

Speaking for about 13 hours, Paul tried to block confirmation hearings for John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, to protest the administration’s surveillance policies. Brennan was later confirmed.

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jill.ornitz@latimes.com


UPDATES:

3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with quotes and information about the upcoming vote.

11:23 p.m.: This article was updated with information that the filibuster ended.

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This article was originally published at 1:46 p.m.


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