“We should focus law enforcement resources on the bad guys,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Some Republicans might vote to begin debate on the legislation but eventually oppose the measure on final passage. Other parts of Obama’s gun effort already seem likely to face defeat, including proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The gun legislation Reid wants the Senate to debate would extend the background check requirement to nearly all gun sales. Reid would try to replace that language with the Manchin-Toomey compromise once debate begins, a move that would require a vote.
The overall gun bill also tightens federal laws against illegal gun sales and slightly increases federal aid for school safety.
Thirteen conservatives have signed a letter saying they will block consideration of the measure, and McConnell said he will back that move. That will force Democrats to round up 60 votes to overcome the conservatives.
At least eight Republicans have said they want to begin debate or have indicated a willingness to consider it, a number that would be expected to grow if the background check agreement proves successful.
Some moderate Democrats were remaining noncommittal and could oppose opening the gun debate. There are 53 Senate Democrats and two independents who lean Democratic.
Amid the maneuvering, relatives of some Newtown victims are lobbying to support gun curbs. And Obama has been calling senators from both parties to push for the gun bill.
“People should listen to what we have to say and move the debate forward,” said Mark Barden, who lost his 7-year-old son, Daniel. “It’s not just about our tragedy. Lots of kids are killed every day in this nation. We have to help lead the change.”
The National Rifle Association opposes Obama’s effort and is urging its members — it claims nearly 5 million — to tell lawmakers of their opposition.
In GOP-heavy Louisiana, the NRA asked members to contact Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is seeking re-election next year. “The future of our Second Amendment rights are at stake,” the mailing said.
Counteracting that has been an effort by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of whose leaders is billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It said it will keep track of key gun-related congressional roll calls and make the information available to voters and contributors — a tactic long used by the NRA and other groups.