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Burr defends vote on Senate gun bill

By Franco Ordoñez
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Friday explained his reasoning for threatening to block debate on gun legislation but then backing off to allow the Senate to consider sweeping gun-control measures.

The Winston-Salem Republican was originally part of a group of conservative senators who threatened to filibuster the legislation aimed at increasing firearms protections.

Burr assured supporters he opposes the two proposals that include strengthening background checks for all gun sales and greater penalties on gun traffickers.

“The vote yesterday (Thursday) was not on the specifics of these bills or whether they should be filibustered; rather, the vote was solely about whether we should begin a debate in the Senate on the issue,” he said. “Since the leadership of the Senate agreed to unlimited debate and amendments, I believed it was important that the Senate at least have an open discussion.”

Democrats, and some Republicans, criticized the GOP filibuster threat for trying to prevent debate on an issue that strikes an emotional chord with many Americans, particularly after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

The National Rifle Association tried to keep the legislation from getting to the Senate floor. Twenty-nine Republicans and two Democrats – Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – opposed it.

Burr has an A-plus rating with the National Rifle Association, but on Friday some conservative voters were criticizing his vote in online discussions.

He was one of 16 Republicans and 50 Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who voted in favor of the procedural motion that gun supporters saw as an important step toward strengthening gun restrictions. Hagan describes herself as a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights who opposes firearms restrictions for law-abiding citizens.

Burr stressed that there will still be ample opportunities to use the filibuster to stop the legislation, but that there were benefits to an open public debate.

“The issue can receive a full and open debate, amendments, and an amendment process with multiple opportunities to stop, alter or kill the legislation,” he said.

Ordoñez: 202-383-0010
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