U.S. gun lobby misses mark in Democrat-led Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats stood up to the powerful gun lobby on Wednesday and rejected legislation to permit firearm owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

A majority of the 100-member Senate voted in favor of the measure, but backers fell two short of the required 60 votes agreed to by both parties for passage.

While the gun lobby won two legislative battles earlier this year in Congress, it lost this one amid opposition by police, big city mayors and victims groups who argued the change would boost crime, not reduce it as backers contend.

“This is a message to the NRA (National Rifle Association) that its legislative agenda isn’t going to receive carte blanche” now that Democrats control the White House and Congress, said Anne Mathias of Concept Capital Washington Research Group, which tracks Congress for investors.

Yet Mathias added that with congressional elections set for next year, she doesn’t expect Democrats to suddenly make a new push for gun control that would endanger many of those in pro-gun areas.

The defeated measure was offered as an amendment to a military defense bill by Senator John Thune, a member of the Republican leadership.

It would have allowed individuals who have a state permit to carry a concealed weapon to carry it in all 48 states that allow concealed weapons.

Thirty-seven states have reciprocity agreements in place that recognize permits issued elsewhere.

But laws vary widely. Alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and misdemeanor convictions disqualify individuals in some states but not others. Nineteen require gun-safety classes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, up for reelection next year in Nevada, broke ranks with many fellow Democrats in voting for the amendment.

Overall, 20 Democrats joined 38 Republicans in voting for the amendment, while 35 Democrats, two Republicans and two independents opposed it.

The gun lobby, which packs plenty of political punch with its millions of members and campaign contributions, scored two victories earlier this year.

Congress eased rules for firearms in national parks as part of an unrelated credit-card bill signed into law by President Barack Obama. And Republicans, with the support of a number of Democrats, blocked a bid by Washington D.C. to have a voting representative in Congress by tying it to a demand to ease Washington’s gun laws.

The NRA said it was disappointed by Wednesday’s vote on concealed weapons, but that it had not given up and was encouraged that a Senate majority backed the measure.

“The NRA will continue to work tirelessly to ensure this important legislation finds the right avenue to come before Congress once again,” said Chris Cox, an NRA director.

Editing by Eric Walsh