Sen. Chris Murphy’s filibuster was successful in pressuring Republicans to hold votes last night on whether or not to require background checks on all gun purchases and add terrorist suspects to the list of people who are barred from buying guns. But those measures failed to get the 60 votes in the Senate that are needed to pass.
In order to limit the damage voting against those common sense reforms will do in the upcoming election, Republicans offered their own versions of the bills to muddy the waters. In the end, the Senate voted on 4 amendments.
The Senate voted 47 to 53 to reject a measure from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to let the attorney general deny firearms and explosives to any suspected terrorists. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota was the sole Democrat to vote against the measure, while Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both of whom face tough re-election contests, voted for it.
The Senate also rejected a Republican alternative from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), that would allow authorities to delay a gun sale to a terrorism suspect for three days or longer if a judge ruled during that time that there is probable cause to deny the firearm outright. The vote was 53 to 47, falling short of the 60 votes needed.
Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, backed the measure. But three Republicans – Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Kirk and Susan Collins of Maine voted against Cornyn’s amendment…
The Senate also rejected, on a 44 to 56 vote, a measure from Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would expand background checks for anyone trying to purchase a firearm, including at a gun show or online…
Both Manchin and Toomey refused to back Murphy’s more expansive measure. Democratic Sens. Heitkamp and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) – who is also running the Senate Democrats’ campaign operation this year – also voted against Murphy’s proposal…
Most Republicans backed an alternative from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would only increase funding for the government to run background checks without expanding them. It failed on a 53 to 47 vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed…
Republican Sens. Kirk and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) voted against the proposal; Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) voted for it.
Republicans offered an unworkable alternative to banning terrorist suspects from buying guns (Cornyn’s bill):
Democrats countered that the time limitations in Cornyn’s alternative would make it functionally impossible to actually prevent suspicious individuals from purchasing firearms.
They also voted for a measure that would increase funding to do background checks, but didn’t close the loophole of being able to purchase them without one at places like gun shows (Grassley’s bill). So even if the Republicans’ alternatives had passed – they would have accomplished nothing.
Meanwhile, they were able to keep the Democrats from passing their bills with assists from a few Democrats, including Senators Heitkamp, Manchin and Tester.
To put this is some perspective, yesterday CNN released a new poll showing that 92% of Americans favor a background check for any gun purchase and 85% support preventing people who are on the U.S. government’s Terrorist Watchlist or no-fly list from owning guns. A majority (54%) also support a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons as well as the sale and possession of equipment known as high-capacity or extended ammunition clips.
To be honest, what the Democrats offered yesterday in the Senate was pretty weak tea when it comes to gun safety measures. But they did so knowing that they had the overwhelming support of the American people. And still…Republicans obstructed.
This is one of those moments when it is tempting to get cynical. I suspect that is precisely what Republicans and the NRA are hoping for. When people give up – they score a permanent win. But this is when I remind myself of the years it took for women to get the right to vote and for the Civil Rights Movement to end Jim Crow. We have two choices at a moment like this: give up and allow the carnage to continue, or remain committed to the struggle and keep fighting.