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Sens. Burr, Hagan on opposite sides of gun-control bill

Burr will oppose, Hagan will support, and a gun rights group plans to criticize both

North Carolina's two U.S. senators will be on opposite sides when the Senate votes on a gun bill this week, though one gun rights group plans to criticize them both Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan plans to support a bipartisan measure calling for expanded background checks.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr will oppose it, a spokesman said.

The Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on an amendment crafted by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. The amendment would extend background checks to buyers at gun shows and other commercial settings.

“This plan represents a commonsense solution reached by two of my colleagues – one a Democrat, one a Republican – and I plan to support the bipartisan proposal,” Hagan said in a statement.

“It respects law-abiding North Carolina gun owners by exempting transfers between family members and friends, allowing concealed carry permits issued within the last five years to serve in lieu of a background check, and explicitly banning the federal government from creating a registry.”

Hagan, who faces re-election next year, repeated her opposition to any measure that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Burr has said he opposes the amendment as well as the bill called “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013” to which it would be attached.

But last week Burr voted to allow debate on the measure to go forward, angering some gun rights supporters.

On Tuesday, the group Grass Roots North Carolina plans to protest what it calls the senator's shift on the gun legislation.

“Although Burr depicts his vote as one merely to debate the measure, filibustering the ‘motion to proceed' would have been the most effective means of killing it,” said Paul Valone, who heads the group. “His votes … will be carefully scrutinized by GRNC and the 150,000 gun-owning voters it advises.”

Explaining his vote last week, Burr said the decision was simply to allow debate.

“I believed it was important that the Senate at least have an open discussion,” he said in a statement. “However, it is important to remember that (the bill) … and any other gun control measures that come before the Senate are still subject to the filibuster, as well as up-or-down votes.”

The group said if Hagan votes for the measure, it “will advocate her defeat.”

Supporters say they're close to the 60 votes needed to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment. At least four Republicans – Sens. Toomey, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona – have signaled their support.

If the bill passes, it goes to the Republican-controlled House.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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