Four measures designed to toughen up gun ownership laws following the mass murder at an Orlando nightclub failed to get the three-fifths necessary approval to pass the U.S. Senate on Monday.
One of the measures that failed to get the necessary 60 votes was Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy’s — an amendment that he said would close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check and to expand the background check database.
It would also have extended background checks to internet sales.
Murphy’s measure fell far short of the 60 votes needed — with 44 senators supporting the amendment and 56 opposed.
“I’m mortified by today’s vote, but I’m not surprised by it,” Murphy said. “We learned in the months after Sandy Hook that the NRA has a vice-like grip on this place — even when 90 percent of the American public wants change. New poll out today: 90 percent of Americans believe in expanded background checks, 87 percent think that terrorists shouldn’t be able to buy guns . . . 87 percent of Americans, [including] 90 percent of Republicans in that poll, think that terrorists should not be able to buy guns.
“I don’t think democracy allows for this Congress to be so out of step with the American public for very long. So I’m mortified by today’s vote. But my spine is strengthened by the fact that we had 40 Democrats on the floor demanding change, that over the course of this week we’ve had millions of Americans join our crusade to end this epidemic of gun violence. And as Republicans scramble, as we speak, to try to find some way out of this mess, as they try to find some way to show that they understand that 90 percent of Americans don’t want terrorists to get guns, we are closer than ever before to breaking the NRA’s grip on this place . . . So we’re not giving up. The American people aren’t giving up. We’ll watch how these negotiations play out over the next few days. But I will tell you this, they are simply evidence of the fact that Republicans know they are on the wrong side of the electorate. Democracy doesn’t allow for this place to be this far out of step with 90 percent of Americans for very long.”
Before the vote, Murphy made one last unsuccessful pitch to his fellow senators.
“If you are suspected of terrorism you should not be able to walk out of a gun store with a gun,” Murphy said.
Speaking of the June 12 Orlando nightclub shooting, in which 49 were killed by shooter Omar Mateen, Murphy said Congress “was going to ignore the largest mass shooting in the history of the country.”
Mateen legally purchased the weapons used in the shooting from a Florida store days before the rampage, despite having been on the terrorist watch list in recent years.
The votes came four days after a nearly 15-hour filibuster by Murphy, which ended early last Thursday morning when Senate Democrats received a commitment from Republicans to schedule votes to close the terror gap and expand background checks for firearm purchases.
Murphy began speaking at 11:21 a.m. last Wednesday, delaying Senate business on the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, and said he wouldn’t relinquish the floor until Republicans agreed to hold votes on the gun control measures.
Murphy announced the agreement and concluded the filibuster at 2:11 a.m. Thursday, 14 hours and 50 minutes after beginning his speech.
Murphy started last week’s filibuster saying the time for condolences and moments of silence were over, and he called for action — specifically, Murphy and his fellow Democrats sought votes on two amendments: one to expand background checks on all private sales of guns, and another to ban gun sales to people on the terrorist watch list as well as other various government watch lists.
Another Democratic measure that didn’t get the necessary votes was brought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. It received 47 votes in favor, 53 opposed — 13 short of the 60 necessary to pass.
Feinstein’s measure would have given the Justice Department the power to stop anyone from purchasing a gun if that person has been on the federal terrorist watch lists sometime in the past five years. This measure would also make it easier for the government to halt a gun purchase, based on “reasonable belief,” as opposed to “probable cause,” that the individual will use the firearm to commit terrorism.
The GOP proposals that failed were:
One from John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would have required that law enforcement be alerted when anyone on the terrorist watch list attempts to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. It received 53 votes in favor, 47 opposed — again 13 short of the 60 necessary to pass.
The legislation, as written, said if the buyer has been investigated for terrorism within the past five years, the attorney general could block a sale for up to three days while a court reviews the sale. The government would have to show probable cause that the person is a known or suspected terrorist.
An amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, received 53 votes in favor and 47 against — 13 short of the 60 needed — that would have clarified what it means to be found mentally deficient, and giving people suspected of serious mental illness a process to challenge that determination.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s senior senator, conceded in Hartford Monday morning, before the vote in Washington, that getting Republicans in the Senate to go along with Democrats on gun reform legislation “was an uphill battle.”
Blumenthal added, however, that the battle would continue.
“These votes today are just another step,” Blumenthal said. “This legislation ought to be uncontroversial, elemental. We will continue to seek common ground and push in their unhappiness with the Republicans in Senate blocking the gun control initiatives.”
Connecticut’s two senators had company in their disappointment with the Senate vote.
Connecticut Congressman John Larson, D-1, released a statement this afternoon following the votes:
“Gun violence is a cancer that Congress refuses to treat,” Larson said. “We have witnessed over a thousand mass shootings since Sandy Hook. We mourn friends and neighbors who continue to die in shootings that may not make the national papers, but leave communities in pieces all the same. Congress can no longer look away.
“At least the Senate has held procedural votes on this issue, but the House remains silent. The House’s inaction is sickening, and I will continue to press for a vote on meaningful reforms to end the violence,” Larson said.
But Republican Senators took exception Monday to Murphy and his fellow Democrats forcing the gun measure votes.
“These votes today accomplish nothing,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said. “We shouldn’t be voting on things that we know are going to fail.”
Toomey said the problem he and other Republicans have against the gun control measures is that “government makes mistakes when coming up with gun-banning lists. And I will not back legislation that can prevent a law abiding American a way to protect his 2nd Amendment rights or a way to clear his name.”
Toomey said instead of taking votes, Republicans and Democrats should be sitting down together and working on “bipartisan” gun control legislation that would be backed by both parties.