Senate votes to open debate on gun control

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By John Whitesides and David Lawder (Reuters)| Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:13pm EDT

WASHINGTON - The Senate cleared the way on Thursday for an emotional, weeks-long debate on proposals to curb gun violence, rejecting an effort by conservative Republicans to block consideration of gun-control legislation prompted by December's Newtown school massacre.

The Senate voted 68-31 to open debate on President Barack Obama's proposals to expand background checks for gun buyers, tighten restrictions on gun trafficking and increase funding for school security.

The Senate easily cleared the 60-vote hurdle needed to break a Republican filibuster on a bill that has sparked intense lobbying on both sides, including families of the Connecticut victims as well as the powerful gun lobby the National Rifle Association.

"The hard work starts now," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said after the procedural vote to open debate, which won the support of 16 Republicans.

Twenty-nine Republicans and two Democrats voted to block the gun-control debate. The Democrats were Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska, who face tough re-election campaigns next year in conservative, gun-friendly states.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham)

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