All four pieces of gun-control legislation proposed in the wake of the Orlando terrorist shooting failed to garner enough support to pass the Senate on Monday.
The two headline proposals, amendments to a spending bill, were offered up by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and focused on suspected terrorists being able to buy weapons.
The other proposals, from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, focused on background checks.
Each amendment needed 60 votes to pass.
The Feinstein-backed bill, favored by Senate Democratic gun-control activists, would have effectively barred individuals on the terror watch list from buying firearms by allowing the attorney general to stop sales. It failed on a 47-53 vote.
The bill first failed on a 54-45 virtual party-line vote after the San Bernardino shooting. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois was the only Republican to vote in favor of the legislation, which he still backs, while Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota was the lone Democrat to vote against it. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia did not vote.
This time around, Warner and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire voted for the bill. Heitkamp still voted against the legislation.
“Senate Republicans should be embarrassed, but of course they’re not because the [National Rifle Association] is happy,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a press conference following the vote.
“The junior senator from New Hampshire said that she’s going to vote yes on everything,” he added of Ayotte. “She should make up her mind and not be a hypocrite. That’s not logical, but that’s what she’s doing.”
He pointed toward reports that Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, is going to attempt to lead a bipartisan resolution on the issue of suspected terrorists being able to buy weapons, and said that he hopes that she “can drum up 20 votes” but added that “the NRA doesn’t support even that.”
During the same press conference, Murphy said that he’s “mortified by today’s vote, but I’m not surprised by it.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, used powerful language as well.
“What am I going to tell the 49 grieving families?” he asked.
- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Opponents to the Feinstein bill argued that because people could be placed on a terror watch list without being found guilty of a crime, the bill could result in US citizens on the list being stripped of their Second Amendment right without due process. There have been multiple cases in which people have been wrongly put on the list.
“Is going after the Second Amendment how you stop terrorism? No,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday during his weekly press briefing. “That’s not how you stop terrorism.”
The Cornyn bill, backed by Senate Republicans and the NRA, was a slightly altered version of the Shield Act proposed by the senator last year that failed. This time around, the Cornyn bill failed on a 53-47 vote.
The Cornyn proposal aimed to stop those suspected of terrorism from buying a firearm while also accounting for due process. The legislation would have authorized the attorney general to put a three-day hold on a firearm sale for a person on the terror watch list. Authorities would then have had the three days to show probable cause before a judge to permanently stop the sale.
“What law enforcement wants to do 90% of the time, 99% of the time, is let it go through,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “They want to watch it. They want to build a case. They want to build patterns.”
“The accommodation is the Cornyn bill, which does exactly what law enforcement set up,” he continued. “It codifies the whole thing … And it provides due process for the good people. And it gives law enforcement the ability where they can conduct these investigations and it won’t blow what they’re doing.”
Senate Democrats and gun-control advocates had come out strongly against the Cornyn bill – the one bill that would have taken fewer votes from across the aisle to pass.
Booker said during a Thursday CNN interview:
“The Cornyn bill, which is the last version that I saw, creates a really impossible hurdle for the FBI. If they have someone under investigation, they’re going to have three days to mount a court challenge to block them, expose their investigation, and create an environment where that terrorist, now being notified, will say, ‘You know what? Instead of going to that brick-and-mortar federally licensed gun dealer, I’m just going to go buy off the internet.’ That’s where it falls down.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called the bill a wolf “in sheep’s clothing” during a Thursday news conference, adding that, under Cornyn’s proposal, “every terrorist will get a gun.”
“If the FBI had that evidence, they would’ve arrested them in the first place,” he said. “It’s a fake. It’s a way to say they’re doing something when they’re doing nothing.”
A “whole court case in three days?” he continued. “Who would think that would make any sense?”