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Bipartisan gun bills pile up in Senate with no plans to act

By Laura Litvan Bloomberg News 

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan proposals to address gun violence and school safety keep piling up in the Senate, but there are no plans to vote on them.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, on Thursday became the latest to offer a measure responding to last month’s attack at a Florida high school that killed 17.

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Their plan would let federal courts temporarily take guns away from people found to be at risk to themselves or others. There was ample indication that the accused Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, intended to commit violence with firearms, the senators said.

‘‘We tell our citizens, if you see something, say something,’’ Graham said at a news conference in Washington. ‘‘Shouldn’t it be incumbent on our government to do something?’’

The measure adds to the list of proposals introduced since the Feb. 14 shooting, most of them modest measures due to opposition from the National Rifle Association, which holds sway over majority-party Republicans and some Senate Democrats on the ballot in November.

President Trump last week whipsawed lawmakers by embracing tough gun controls, including raising the minimum purchase age for a rifle to 21, only to back down after a dinner meeting with the NRA’s top lobbyist.

Still, the president expressed optimism Thursday at the White House on passing some form of legislation, such as broadening background check requirements.

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‘‘Background checks are moving along in Congress,’’ Trump said, while adding, ‘‘It’s never that easy’’ to pass such measures.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters last week that most Republicans in the chamber want progress on school safety measures they can agree on, but he didn’t commit to providing floor time.

He said nothing about the issue Tuesday after Senate Republicans met privately to discuss the chamber’s agenda.

A two-week Senate recess begins March 24, and there are no plans before then to hold a debate on guns in the chamber.

McConnell’s press secretary, David Popp, said Thursday that before then, the Senate will consider bills to revise banking regulation and combat sex trafficking, vote on a government spending bill, and perhaps confirm Trump administration nominations.

The House is planning a debate as early as next week only on a narrow bill providing grants to train law enforcement and school staff to spot warning signs of school violence and intervene.

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That means it’s all but certain that a planned ‘‘March for Our Lives’’ rally in Washington on March 24, organized in part by student survivors of the Parkland, Fla., attack, will occur without real action in Congress on gun laws.

Graham said Thursday that it will be up to Trump to help push the debate forward. He and Blumenthal said that the president last week voiced some support for the type of ‘‘red flag’’ law they’re proposing.

Their measure would let law enforcers or family members ask a federal court for an ‘‘extreme risk’’ protective order to prevent someone from buying or possessing firearms for up to 14 days if they are seen as an imminent risk of violence.

Under the proposal, a hearing would be provided within three days, and if ‘‘clear and convincing’’ evidence of danger is shown, a judge could issue a longer-term order of up to 180 days.

Graham and Blumenthal have joined other senators in calling for narrow approaches, arguing that it will be too hard to get enough support for tougher gun controls.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, is calling for votes on three measures: background checks for gun purchasers, a restraining order plan similar to the Graham-Blumenthal bill, and a bill to reinstate the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.