White House officials are seeking a way to use executive authority to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows thousands of people to buy firearms each year without a background check, but complicated legal issues have slowed the process.
Almost three years ago, after the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama asked Congress to change the law to require background checks for weapons sold outside the network of licensed gun dealers, including sales at gun shows or through the Internet. A bill to tighten the background system died in the Senate a few months later — dashing the administration’s hopes for legislative action.
The deadlock in the Senate continued Thursday as Republicans blocked several efforts by Democrats to add gun control provisions to a budget measure.
In one of a series of near-party-line procedural votes, the Senate by 54 to 45 blocked a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would have stopped people on the government’s anti-terrorist “no fly” list from buying guns. Republican opponents said that the no-fly list includes too many errors to be used for preventing gun sales.
By a 50 to 48 vote the chamber also blocked a measure by Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) to tighten the background-check system.
All Republicans voted to block the Feinstein measure except Sen. Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois, who faces a difficult reelection campaign next year in a heavily Democratic state. On the background-check measure, Kirk, Toomey and fellow Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine voted with the Democrats.
On both measures, all Democrats were in favor except Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who voted no, and Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, who did not vote. A spokesman for Warner said he was unable to vote because of a prior commitment but would have supported both measures.
This fall, after a shooter at a community college in Oregon killed nine people and then shot himself, Obama directed his aides to step up efforts to get around that congressional stalemate by using his executive powers.
Since then, White House officials have been trying to draft an executive order that would reinterpret existing law to require all or most gun sales to go through the background check system.
But despite Obama’s visible frustration with the lack of action, a solution has proved complicated. Many had expected the White House to announce plans for an executive order by Dec..14, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. That now seems less likely.
Requiring background checks for all weapons sales might not have had any effect on Wednesday’s shootings in San Bernardino in which at least 14 people were killed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters, legally purchased two of the weapons at a gun shop in Corona. Two others were legally purchased and given to him by a friend, federal officials said…