Gun Control

All 4 Senate Gun Bills Fail Today

Two bills to restrict "terror watchlist" people from getting guns, two to strengthen federal background check system in general, all fail to garner needed 60 votes in Senate. Sen. Rand Paul angers some Second Amendment activists by voting for one of the terror suspect bills.


The Senate this afternoon rejected four different gun bills supposedly intended to help deal with future Orlando-like mass shootings; two related to the background check systems operation, two related to keeping terror suspects from getting guns. Procedurally, all of the bills needed 60 supporting votes to stay alive for now.


Jacob Sullum explained the for-now failed bills related to the terror watch list in detail earlier today. One, from California's reliably anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), would, as Sullum reported, allow the attorney general to deny a gun sale if, in Feinstein's bill's language, the A.G. "determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the transferee represents a threat to public safety based on a reasonable suspicion that the transferee is engaged, or has been engaged, in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources thereof."

That one only got 47 pro-votes, far short of the 60 required.

A similar bill from Republican Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), as Sullum wrote, would have "allow[ed] the Justice Department to delay the transfer of a gun to someone who is 'a known or suspected terrorist' or who has been 'the appropriate subject of a terrorism investigation within the last five years.' The government then has three days to persuade a judge there is probable cause to believe the suspect is involved in terrorism."

Cornyn's version got 53 "for" votes today, again not enough to proceed.

Sullum also discussed a sort of compromise bill in the works on the terror suspect matter from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), which has not yet been voted on.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the leaders of the 15-hour attempt to talk his colleagues into acting on further gun restrictions last week, tells Politico that "I'm going to be turning my attention to the November election. I'm going to take some of my energy and help make sure that people who cast the wrong vote don't come" back to the Senate.

Two bills related to background check system were also blocked from proceeding for now, one a standard attempt to universalize background checks for every gun sale, not just one's by licensed federal gun dealers. That one saw a 44-56 vote against today.

Another background check bill out of the office of Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which would spend more on the national background check system and encourage more thorough reporting on those in the mental health system to prevent them from legally obtaining guns, also failed today, 53-47.

Many in the Second Amendment community considered even Cornyn's supposedly milder attempt to prohibit people under government suspicion from getting guns legally to be an illegitimate restriction against those not actually arrested or charged with crimes. Still, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), usually a staunch gun rights man, did support and vote for Cornyn's bill. (I saw handfuls of gun rights activists in social networking say this made them vow to never support Paul again.)

In a press release emailed to me that I was not able to find online as of posting, Paul wrote that:

"By all means we should do everything possible to prevent terrorists from buying weapons, but we should never take away any American's Second Amendment rights without due process. Innocent until proven guilty is the basis of our judicial system.  We should not abridge any of our basic rights without due process in a court of law," Dr. Paul said….

"I recently asked the FBI Director, why was this investigation closed? The Orlando killer at least twice threatened violence against co-workers, he knew another suicide bomber, he travelled to Saudi Arabia, and five weeks before the massacre a gun store owner reported him to the FBI. The FBI dropped the ball here. To prevent more tragedies like this from recurring, we need to insist that the FBI does more thorough investigations," stated Dr. Paul.

Paul also wrote in that release that he "advocated to change the Cornyn Amendment to ensure that anyone investigated by the FBI would stay on the terror watch list for five years."

While Sen. Paul seems to consider the fact that a judge would need to sign off on the prohibition sufficient due process, many Second Amendment supporters consider anything short of prosecution for a crime that puts one in a legally prohibited category an unconstitutional reason to deny the right to purchase a gun.