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Senate Rejects Gun Control Background Check Measures

On Monday, U.S. senators rejected two gun control measures. The majority of senators voted along the party line.

The Hill reports:

Senators voted 53-47 on a proposal from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would reauthorize funding for the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) and incentivize states to share mental health records with the federal system.

But 60 votes were needed to move forward with the proposal.

GOP Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.) voted against moving forward with Grassley’s proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) supported it.

The Grassley proposal would also have cracked down on preventing government agencies from selling guns to criminals as part of undercover “sting” operations such as the “Fast and Furious” operation, in which guns were sold to suspected gun traffickers.

“Unlike Senator Grassley’s proposal, the Democratic alternative would not help prevent failed gun operations like fast and furious,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Unlike Senator Grassley’s proposal it would not require the Department of Justice to explain why it has not been using gun laws on the books to prosecute cases.”

But Democrats resoundingly rejected the GOP background check measure, arguing it would do little to make sure potential criminals or terrorists couldn’t buy a gun.

“It’s a shield for members who don’t want to do the right thing,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who led a recent unofficial filibuster on gun control.

Grassley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered a similar proposal during the Senate’s 2013 gun control debate, but it also largely fell along party lines.

Instead Democrats largely backed a measure from Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Murphy, that would require a background check for most sales or transfers of guns.

But that measure, which also needed 60 votes, failed in a 44-56 vote.

Democrats have pledged for months to push for expanding background checks in the wake of a string of recent high-profile shootings, but their effort faces an uphill battle in a GOP-controlled Congress.

“The Murphy legislation is very broad…and I think that there are concerns about it,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told reporters Monday, asked about the proposal. “I’ve previously said that I think it’s important to fix the current system.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) noting that the Democrats’ proposal went further than legislation he authored with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in 2013, blasted his colleagues for “talking past each other.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) voted against moving forward with the proposal. Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), the most vulnerable GOP incumbent up in November, supported it.

Both of the measures were widely expected to fall short Monday. Senators also voted on two proposals to block suspected terrorists from buying guns, which both also failed.

All of the proposals are being offered as amendments to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill.

“Today’s votes would never have occurred were it not for the loud voices of the American people echoing through the halls of the Capitol last week,” Murphy said in statement. “After the deadliest shooting in American history, Senate Republicans weren’t even going to discuss, let alone vote on, measures to stop this endless mass murder enveloping our country.”

The Grassley bill was also aimed at preventing government agencies from selling guns to criminals as part of undercover “sting” operations such as the “Fast and Furious” operation, in which guns were sold to suspected gun traffickers, unless top Department of Justice officials sign off that “sufficient safeguards” are in place.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged support for the Democrats’ proposal ahead of Monday’s vote, saying it would let the background check system work “in the only rational way it should requiring everyone purchasing a firearm to undergo a background check.”

“That background check process is necessary for any terrorist list to be effectively implemented because otherwise there would be no way of knowing whether someone is on such a list,” he added.

The Democratic bill would also require the attorney general to develop a plan to make sure records are shared electronically with the NICS, and incrementally increase penalties against states that do not comply.

Democrats on Monday dismissed Grassley’s new measure arguing it wouldn’t strengthen the background check system.

“When you look at the bottom line of their proposals, they essentially do nothing,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said ahead of Monday’s vote.

Photo credit: Raw Story.

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