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Senate Votes To Open Gun Control Debate

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Gun control legislation has cleared the first hurdle in the U.S. Senate.
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Gun control legislation has cleared the first hurdle in the U.S. Senate.

Gun control legislation is now on the floor of the U.S. Senate and advocates say that's due to an intense lobbying effort by victims of gun violence.

All week long, families from Newtown, Conn., criss-crossed Capitol Hill begging senators to support the gun control measure. Erica Lafferty was one of those who lobbied Congress. Her mom Dawn Hochsprung was the principal of Sandy Hook who died protecting her students. On Capitol Hill, Lafferty explained that she was in Washington for her mother and the other victims.

"Their voices need to be heard and they're going to carry through us," Lafferty says.

A bipartisan group of sixty eight senators overcame an initial filibuster to keep the bill from being debated. Many observers on Capitol Hill doubted that a gun control measure could even make it this far. Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy says the presence of Newtown families and other victims of gun violence made the difference.

"These buildings are packed with families demanding change," Murphy says. "The NRA and the gun lobby groups are just vastly outnumbered in this debate for the first time in decades. That makes a difference."

But getting over the first procedural hurdle may have been the easy part for gun control advocates. Starting next week lawmakers will vote on bipartisan amendments to institute near universal background checks on gun purchases and to curb gun trafficking. They ll also vote on an assault weapons ban and a bill to limit magazine sizes  measures that are sure to rile the gun lobby.

Even so, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) says he isn't afraid of supporting those amendments.

"The NRA is headquartered in Virginia. I've run three statewide races. They've campaigned against me every time based on things like supporting background record checks," Kaine says. "They have not been able to beat me. They could beat me tomorrow, but if they were that powerful they would have already beat me."

The gun legislation could consume the Senate for the next two or three weeks. That means Capitol Hill will likely be teaming with lobbyists and victims alike, all clamoring for each senator's support.

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