Gun control supporters have won the first Senate showdown over restricting firearms, rejecting an effort by conservatives to derail a package of gun curbs before debate could even begin.
The 68-31 vote gave an initial burst of momentum to efforts by President Barack Obama and lawmakers, mostly Democrats, to impose gun restrictions following the December carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives.
The legislation would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks, strengthen laws against illicit gun trafficking and increase school safety aid. Advocates say the measures would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get weapons.
Opponents say the restrictions would violate the Constitution's right to bear arms and would be ignored by criminals.
Obama is highlighting the role played by the families of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting victims in pressing the Senate to move forward on gun control legislation.
Obama spoke by phone with the families, including many who had been in Washington lobbying senators. The White House says Obama congratulated them on an "important step forward."
Spokesman Jay Carney calls today's vote "very important," but says it's just the "first stage" in the effort to pass anti-gun violence legislation.
He says Obama told the families of the Connecticut school victims that he will, in his words, "keep fighting for the votes they deserve."
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