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Local politics

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Coats will join move to derail new gun curbs

Indiana’s Dan Coats is among 13 Republicans in the U.S. Senate who have threatened to stall votes on gun-control legislation.

The senators sent a letter last week to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in which they wrote they “will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”

The GOP group includes Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, each regarded as a prospective presidential candidate in 2016.

Reid said in a floor speech Tuesday he was “relatively kind of stunned” by the letter. He told reporters he plans to call for a vote Thursday to proceed to debate on gun-control legislation.

Democrats have a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, which requires a 60-vote majority to advance legislation to amendments and a vote. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that at least eight GOP senators have said they will not hold up deliberations.

Tara DiJulio, Coats’ communications director, said Coats “opposes the Reid bill that is pending in the Senate. Other versions are still being negotiated and Coats will review the details of those should they come before the full Senate. However, he will not support any measure that will undermine the Constitution and infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Reid’s bill would require background checks for all gun buyers and impose stricter penalties on gun trafficking and “straw purchases,” where someone buys a gun for a person who cannot pass a background check. He has said he will permit votes on amendments that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The communications director for Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Donnelly wants votes on gun legislation.

“He does not agree with every proposal expected to come before the Senate – for example, he is opposed to the assault weapons ban – but he hopes that senators of both parties can agree to allow an up-or-down vote on each measure,” Elizabeth Shappell said in an email.

During a March 26 visit to Fort Wayne, Donnelly said he supported legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers to include gun-show sales by private sellers.

Shappell said Donnelly “has consistently said he is open to a bipartisan compromise on improving background checks, one that would better help keep weapons out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill, while protecting our Second Amendment rights.”

Meanwhile, Mayors Against Illegal Guns announced Tuesday it will begin scoring federal lawmakers on their votes and stances on gun legislation.

Each of the 13 GOP senators who signed the filibuster letter to Reid received an A rating from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America except for Rubio, who received a B+ from the NRA, and Coats, who received a C+ from the NRA and a C from Gun Owners of America.

Coats had voted in favor of the 10-year ban on certain assault weapons that Congress passed in 1993.