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State’s senators split on gun bill

U.S. senators from Indiana split their votes on Thursday’s motion to advance gun-control legislation to debate and amendments.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly voted in favor of proceeding to the amendment stage, while Republican Sen. Dan Coats voted against the measure.

Coats was among 13 Republican senators who had signed a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatening to stall the legislation.

Coats said in a statement that the Reid-sponsored bill to require criminal background checks on most gun sales, including those made online and at gun shows, “goes too far and expands the government’s power to regulate, monitor and control the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms.”

Coats said he is “working with my colleagues on proposals to improve our current background check system and the enforcement of current laws.”

Elizabeth Shappell, Donnelly’s communications director, said in an email that Donnelly voted for Thursday’s motion because “he thinks that there should be an up-or-down vote on each measure.” Donnelly has said he supports expanding background checks to include gun shows but is opposed to a proposal to ban assault weapons, which is among amendments Reid vowed will be considered by the Senate.

Ohio’s senators also split their votes Thursday, with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in favor of moving ahead to deliberations on the bill and Republican Sen. Rob Portman opposing the motion.

– Brian Francisco Washington editor