harryreid Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images0

The Senate launched formal debate of legislation to curb gun violence Monday, with Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) dismissing a threatened Republican filibuster as shameful and against the will of a majority of Americans.

Moments after the Senate reconvened after its two-week recess, Reid said the Senate would move in the coming days to consider a series of Democratic-backed proposals, including an expanded background check program for gun sales, new federal funding for school security programs and plans to make gun trafficking a federal crime. But he also invited senators to come forth with other ideas to strengthen or weaken federal gun laws.

"There are strong feelings and deep disagreements about some of these measures, but every one of these measures deserves a vote, a yes or no. No hiding, no running from an issue that has captivated America," Reid said.

Conjuring up the emotional national response to the shooting deaths of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December, Reid said Republican obstructionism would be seen as an affront to the families of the slain children.

"The least Republicans owe the parents of these 20 little babies who are murdered at Sandy Hook is a thoughtful debate about whether stronger laws could have saved their little girls and boys," he said.

During his remarks, Reid referenced a letter he received Monday from 13 Senate Republicans who are threatening to filibuster the legislation because they believe the proposals would infringe on the Second Amendment. The threat "flies in the face of what 90 percent of Americans want," Reid said.

"If Republicans disagree with the measure, let them vote against it," he added, noting that at least one Senate Democratic has also voiced objections to the proposals.

"Good," he said in reference to the Democrat. "They're free to vote against it. If they like the laws that now exist in America, offer an amendment to make it weaker or stronger —  whatever — however they look at it."

Republican aides said Monday that they expect more GOP senators to sign on to the filibuster threat as they return to Washington in the coming days.

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