The US Senate has voted to begin debating a new gun control bill, the first major push for gun regulations in nearly two decades, amid fierce opposition from a powerful gun rights lobby.
On Thursday, the Senate voted 68-31 to open 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.
Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives, who say the proposals go too far, and to clear the first hurdle before final passage.
Twenty-nine Republicans and two Democrats voted to block the debate.
Some parents and family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting watched Thursday’s procedural vote.
No major gun legislation has passed the US Congress since 1994, when an assault weapons ban passed.
“The hard work starts now,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.
In the Senate, opening debate is not nearly the same as winning final passage on a bill. Senators could take weeks to thrash out all the likely amendments, which 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.
The United States’ top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has vowed to oppose new gun control measures, arguing the US Constitution forbids them.
The vote came four months after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Every year, more than 30,000 people are shot and killed in the US.
The US averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injured, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control.
The year 2012 was a record setting year for gun sales in the US.
About 4.5 million firearms are sold annually in the US at a cost of 2 to 3 billion dollars.
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