Democrats propose Senate gun-control resolution
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democrats proposed Friday a nonbinding Senate resolution opposing concealed weapons in certain places, in a move coordinated with Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign aimed at highlighting a gun policy difference with Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
The resolution, proposed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and supported by 22 Democrats, would put the Senate on record as saying gun owners should not carry concealed weapons into schools, school-related settings and places of worship, such as churches, synagogues and mosques.
``We can respect the rights of hunters and legitimate gun owners while also acknowledging that bullets and Bibles don't mix,'' said Lieberman at a morning news conference with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota).
Texas and 21 other states do not prohibit concealed weapons at schools and places of worship.
A 1995 Texas law allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons but prohibited carrying the guns in places of religious worship. But a 1997 amendment eliminated all exceptions. Bush signed both pieces of legislation into state law.
Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, will focus on gun control and highlight differences with his opponent while campaigning in California on Friday. The vice president has attacked Bush for signing legislation that permitted guns to be carried into churches as concealed weapons.
Congress went into recess Thursday night for Easter and Passover and will not be in session on April 20, the first anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. With the date approaching, Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are ratcheting up the rhetoric in an attempt to embarrass Republicans on an issue of concern to many voters.
The resolution could hit the Senate floor by mother's day on May 14, when thousands of women are expected to come to Washington for the "Million Moms March," an anti-gun demonstration.
Lieberman acknowledged the proposal is more symbolic than substantive. "This is a first step. It is a statement of policy,'' he said.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats vowed to use parliamentary tactics to disrupt Senate operations after the Easter-Passover recess to force Republican leaders to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.
Legislation containing a number of gun control provisions has languished for nearly nine months, as the House and Senate remain unable to work out differences between separate bills passed by both legislative bodies.
A key sticking point is the elimination of the so-called gun show loophole by requiring background checks for purchases made at weekend gun shows. The Senate bill would require a three-day waiting period while the checks are undertaken, the same length of time allowed for sales made at gun shops. Democrats back this version.
But Republicans favor the House bill, which requires the check to be completed within 24 hours. The House bill has the backing of the National Rifle Association.
Republicans, who have offered two compromises on the legislation during the stalemate, claim the Democrats are more interested in keeping the issue alive during an election year than in actually passing a law.
Daschle said the latest compromise offered by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, fell short because it limits background checks at gun shows to 24 hours, which Democrats say is an insufficient amount of time to weed out felons and other ineligible gun buyers.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said Thursday that a recently completed General Accounting Office report underscored the importance of a 72-hour waiting period. The report shows that 95 percent of the background checks conducted for a gun shop purchase take as little as two hours. Of the 5 percent that take longer, 40 percent are denied because of criminal background or evidence of mental illness or other disqualifying factors.