In the end, despite the hashtag #enough, it wasn’t enough.
The US Senate once again knocked back plans to prevent terrorism suspects from gaining access to firearms today, less than a fortnight after an ISIS sympathiser killed 49 and injured 53 in America’s worse gun massacre. Omar Mateen bought a semi-automatic assault rifle and handgun legally before his shooting rampage in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
The lack of bipartisan support for any type of gun control in America continues to be a national sore, with polls consistently showing a majority of US citizens backing tighter gun laws.
Despite both the Democrats and Republicans offering two gun control proposals each, all four measures failed to find a majority – a fact observers already predicted would happen – in a reflection of the increasingly fractious nature of US politics.
There was no room for compromise on either side with Democrats arguing the Republican amendments didn’t go far enough, and Republicans, backed by the all-powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), claiming the Democratic plans were too restrictive and unconstitutional.
There are 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats and Independents in the 100-member chamber. Around 40 senators have indicated their support for tougher laws, but any changes need to pass the 60-vote threshold.
Similar proposals for tighter gun controls failed after a terrorist attack last December left 14 people dead and 22 seriously wounded in San Bernardino, California, and after a 20-year-old with an assault rifle killed 20 children aged just 6-7, as well as seven adults in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
The Democrats wanted background checks expanded to include private sales and online. Their other proposal was to let the attorney-general ban gun sales to anyone on “no-fly” lists, with a right to appeal to the Department of Justice.
Republicans wanted a judicial review process to prevent someone on the terror watch list from buying a gun, following a 72-hour delay for anyone on the no-fly or watch lists. Their second proposal was to increase funding for the background check system.
The four measures were proposed amendments to legislation funding the Commerce and Justice departments for the coming year.
The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, accused Democrats of “using this as an opportunity to push a partisan agenda or craft the next 30-second campaign ad”.
“No one wants a terrorist to be able to buy guns or explosives. No one,” McConnell said.
Fellow Republican John Cornyn from Texas said “every single senator wants to deny terrorists access to guns they use to harm innocent civilians, but there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way”.
Senator Marco Rubio claimed the sales ban “would not prevent terrorist attacks, but it would deny thousands of law-abiding Americans their constitutionally protected right to bear arms without any due process” and increasing background checks would place “too many burdens on law-abiding Americans”.
Minority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid asked “Is there anyone who thinks that in America you need 30 bullets to go hunting? For what? We, the man in Orlando, Florida, went hunting for people. We tried to limit the size of ammunition clips”.
He accused his political opponents of trying to divert attention.
“Why? So Republicans say ‘Hey, look, we tried,’ and all the time their cheerleaders, their bosses at the NRA, are cheering,” he said.
“Senate Republicans should be embarrassed but they’re not.”
Democratic deputy leader Dick Durbin said “the Senate turned its back on victims of gun violence from Orlando to San Bernardino, from Newtown to the streets of Chicago”.
There is hope that a compromise may be hammered out later this week.
Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton launched her own campaign for greater gun control via social media:
This is just common sense. It's time for Congress to act. pic.twitter.com/SsJuC4D7Pm
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 20, 2016
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 21, 2016
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