POLITICS
03/31/2013 10:00 am ET | Updated Apr 01, 2013

Lindsey Graham Won't Join Gun Background Checks Filibuster If Amendments Allowed

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) won't join his Republican colleagues in filibustering a motion to proceed to debate on gun legislation, as long he's allowed to offer an alternative, the lawmaker said Sunday morning.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced in a letter last week that they opposed "any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions." Two more senators, Florida's Marco Rubio and Oklahoma's James Inhofe, have since joined them.

But Graham told CNN's Candy Crowley that he supported an "open process."

"The only way I would filibuster a bill is if Senator Reid wouldn't allow open amendments," he said. "I have legislation with Senator Pryor and Begich, two Democrats, myself that would change the federal system."

That bill, the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013, would focus on preventing the mentally ill from obtaining guns.

But Graham said he would still vote against legislation to institute universal background checks. He dismissed polling that has shown most support the checks, saying Americans should focus on reforming the current system before adding new requirements.

And, he said, he doubted universal background checks would pass.

"I don't think so, I don't think it makes any sense," he said. "Fix the current system, don't expand it to individual transfers. Nothing we're talking about would have prevented Newtown from happening. The guy did not fail a background check."

Appearing later on the show, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he had faith legislators could reach a "sensible" compromise that instituted universal background checks without placing too much of a burden on gun buyers.

"The shock and horror of Newtown is still very with our nation," he said. "That unspeakable tragedy, I think, created an unstoppable momentum."

Blumenthal said Reid had assured him that he could offer amendments to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and that he intended to spearhead an amendment on the latter.

But he said that even if those amendments didn't go through, any legislation would be positive.

"Any step that saves lives is a step in the right direction," he said. "The question is not winning or losing here, but really, saving lives, which the people of Newtown and the victims there and their families, I think, want to happen."

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