Despite Murphy's filibuster, Senate rejects 'terror gap' bills
It’s been an up and down week for gun control laws.
On one side, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that challenged Connecticut’s state law banning assault weapons, thus upholding the ban. A decision state lawmakers praised.
On the other side, the U.S. Senate voted down four gun-control measures, primarily along party lines.
Connecticut’s junior senator, Chris Murphy, who sponsored one of the failed gun bills, said, “I'm mortified by today's vote but I'm not surprised by it. The NRA has a vice-like grip on this place.”
Murphy, a Democrat, was the catalyst for the gun bill votes.
Following the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Murphy launched a filibuster on the Senate floor demanding a Senate response to the shootings.
During the filibuster, Murphy and a number of other speakers called for stricter gun control and background checks to cover gun show and Internet sales, and to prevent people on terrorist watch lists from buying firearms.
The filibuster ran for nearly 15 hours until Murphy announced that Senate Democrats had received a commitment from Republicans to schedule votes on bills to close the ‘terror gap’ and expand background checks for firearm purchases.
At the conclusion of the filibuster, Murphy referenced the Newtown shootings in which a lone gunman killed 20 children and six adults. “Sandy Hook was three and a half years ago, and Congress hasn’t passed a single measure that would make the next mass shooting, the next murder of kids in this country less likely. The American public have already made up their mind that they want a background check system that captures potential terrorists. They want to make sure that everybody that buys a gun through a commercial sale has to prove that they’re not a criminal before they buy it. The American people have made up their mind,” Murphy said.
Following the filibuster, the Senate kept its word and voted on four gun bills, two sponsored by Democrats and two by Republicans. None of them passed.
“We are not giving up or going away,” responded Connecticut’s senior Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat. “We will not retreat or relent in our fight to bar violent extremists inspired or supported by our enemies abroad from purchasing firearms. Deadly military style semi-automatic assault weapons designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible should remain on the battlefield where they belong — not in our nightclubs, movie theaters or elementary schools. The nation has reached a tipping point, even if the Senate today failed to heed and hear the American people, who overwhelmingly want commonsense, sensible measures like extending background checks and closing the terrorist gap.”
Although the four gun bills failed, the gun control dialogue is ongoing and a fifth gun control measure is in the works.
On Tuesday, Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine, introduced legislation to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns. Supporters say the bill has a chance of getting the 60-vote majority it needs to pass in the Senate.
The legislation would give the attorney general authority to ban gun sales to individuals on two terrorist watch lists: the no-fly list and the selectee list, a secondary security list used by airlines.
But lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, believe this fifth measure may fall victim to politics and a divided senate like the previous four bills did. "Here's the big question: How many Republicans will be willing to join her and buck the NRA and vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists? Will enough Republicans buck the NRA to pass it in the Senate? You need a whole lot," he said.
In news more positive for gun control advocates, on Monday, June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Connecticut’s assault weapons ban by declining to hear an appeal of a circuit court of appeal’s ruling.
The court’s decision leaves in place gun control laws that ban military-style assault weapons.
Murphy, Blumenthal and Connecticut’s governor Dannel Malloy praised the court for its decision.
“It sends a very important message about the correct review of second amendment challenges, which is that no right is absolute,” Blumenthal said.
“Military-style assault weapons have no place in our schools or on our streets,” Murphy said. “Connecticut has led the country with our gun safety laws, and now more than ever we should be seen as a model for Congress when it comes to how best to help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”
Referring to Newtown, Malloy said, "During tragic times, we acted. When we saw wrong, we did what was right. After enduring a moment as a state that shook our collective conscience and jolted the soul, we banded together and stood up for common sense. We passed one of the toughest, one of the smartest gun laws in the nation... We must stand up against mass shootings. We cannot sit idly by and watch tragedy after tragedy, horror after horror. We have the ability to act – the question is whether or not elected officials have the will.”