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Despite school shootings, new laws face long odds

A day after Senate Democrats proposed new gun-safety measures, there were reports of three separate school shootings in less than 24 hours.
Handguns are displayed in the Remington booth during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Handguns are displayed in the Remington booth during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas.
Many Americans woke up this morning to news of a shooting at an Arizona university that left one person dead and three injured. A few hours later, the public learned of a separate shooting at a Texas university that reportedly killed one person and wounded another. And then a few hours after that there were reports of a shooting at a technical college in Kentucky. [Update: See below]
It's enough to make one wonder if public officials might take some steps to reduce gun violence.

Senate Democrats unveiled plans on Thursday for gun control reforms that include closing background check loopholes, expanding the background check database, and tightening regulations on illegal gun purchases. The push is being led by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who on Wednesday sent a letter to their Senate colleagues outlining the proposals. During the press conference the lawmakers recounted deadly mass shootings across the nation over the past several years and stressed that personal conversations with the victims' relatives and friends helped underscore the need for "sensible gun reform legislation."

The package of reforms, which stand no credible chance of success in a Republican-led Congress, would "bolster the background check system by strengthening it and stopping those who try to evade it," and target straw purchases.
The Democratic measures are intended to "echo the failed Manchin-Toomey bill of 2013, bipartisan legislation that called for universal background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre." That bill was derailed by a Republican filibuster.
It was, however, bipartisan, with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) throwing his support behind the popular reforms. Any chance he might endorse the newly unveiled Democratic proposal?
Apparently, not. The Pennsylvania Republican told a Pittsburgh television station this week that support for gun legislation is probably weaker now than it was two years ago.
Toomey has not signed on to the renewed Democratic effort, though he told local outlets this week he would "take a look" at the proposed package of reforms.
Given this Politico report from a couple of weeks ago, however, if reform advocates are looking for potential GOP partners, it seems Toomey is a longshot.

As Sen. Pat Toomey officially launched his reelection campaign over the weekend, a gun rights group was planning to interrupt the festivities by protesting the Pennsylvania Republican’s support for universal background checks. At the last minute, though, Pennsylvanians for Self Protection canceled the protest. A group official said it was scrapped after a Toomey staffer promised the senator would not reintroduce the high-profile gun control bill known as the Toomey-Manchin proposal that stalled in the Senate two years ago. Toomey’s aide denied that account, saying no such assurance was made. But the incident highlights the high wire the freshman senator is walking as he tries to reconcile the signature bipartisan effort of his term with vehement conservative opposition to new gun controls.

* Update: It now appears the reports of a shooting in Kentucky were a false alarm. There were only two deadly school shootings today, not three.