Major gun control legislation will be before the Senate for a vote Monday, just eight days after the deadly Orlando terror shooting — and none of it is likely to pass.
The two headline proposals, amendments to a spending bill, are offered up by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
In order to pass, each amendment would need 60 votes. With Republicans holding a 54-46 majority in the Senate, that would be nearly impossible for Feinstein’s proposal while remaining difficult for Cornyn’s.
The Feinstein backed bill, favoured by Senate Democrats gun control activists, would effectively ban individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms by allowing the attorney general to stop the sale.
“We’re just asking for people to come into this country and go out and buy a gun,” Feinstein said during a conference call with reporters last Monday, later adding, “Even if you’re a suspected terrorist, you can go out and buy a gun. And that’s just not right. So I hope there will be a change.”
The bill first failed on a 54-45 virtual party-line vote in the wake of the San Bernardino attack. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was the only Republican to vote in favour of the legislation, which he still backs, while North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was the lone Democrat to vote against it. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, did not vote.
Opponents to the Feinstein bill say that, since you can be placed on a terror watch list without being found guilty of a crime, then it could cause US citizens on the list to be erroneously stripped of their Second Amendment right without due process. There have been multiple cases in which individuals have been wrongly put on the list.
“Is going after the Second Amendment how you stop terrorism? No,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday during his weekly press briefing. “That’s not how you stop terrorism.”
The Cornyn bill, backed by Senate Republicans and the National Rifle Association, is a slightly-altered version of the SHIELD act proposed by the senator last year that failed.
The Cornyn proposal seeks to stop those suspected of terrorism from purchasing a firearm while also accounting for due process. The legislation would authorise the attorney general to put a three-day hold on a firearm sale for an individual on the terror watch list. Authorities would then have 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 CEO Wayne LaPierre told CBS’s “Face the Nation” 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 have come out strongly against the Cornyn bill — the one bill that would take fewer votes from across the aisle to pass.
“The Cornyn bill, which is the last version that I saw, creates a really impossible hurdle for the FBI,” Booker said during a Thursday CNN interview. “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.”
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called the bill a wolf “in sheep’s clothing” during a Thursday press conference, adding that under Cornyn’s proposal “every terrorist will get a gun.”
“If the FBI had that evidence, they would have 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!”
Gun-control activists know it’s going to be nearly impossible for Monday’s late-afternoon vote to prove successful, but they’re still holding out hope.
“I’m always hopeful that they will do the right thing,” Shannon Watts, founder of Mums Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a branch of Everytown for Gun Safety, told Business Insider, calling the Cornyn-backed bill a “red herring” put forth by the NRA “basically to protect their own profit.”
Watts said, in respect to the Feinstein bill, which will need an additional 15 votes to pass, she believes that Heitkamp and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte are the two senators who are most likely to flip their votes.
Although that won’t be enough, Watts is encouraged by what she called “a sea change” in gun politics.
“After Sandy Hook, we waited four full months for a vote to close the background check loophole,” she said. “That was after the slaughter of 26 kids.”
“This time we’re waiting a week,” she continued.
She’s encouraged by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton talking about gun control “constantly” and said activists are “lightyears ahead of where we were after Sandy Hook.”
If the vote fails, Watts had a simple message: “We will remember in November.”
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