Senate Democrats today stopped Republicans from filibustering a gun-control measure by a vote of 68-31. But critics say the bill that now moves forward to the amendment step really will do little to address the issue that prompted it: preventing shootings such as those in Newtown, Conn., in December and Aurora, Colo., in July.
President Obama began pushing sweeping gun-control proposals after the Connecticut shooting but Democrats have been back-pedaling on his plans ever since.
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dropped attempts to ban so-called “assault weapons” and to put limits on ammunition magazines because of opposition by most Republicans and some Democrats.
Then yesterday, Democrats unveiled what they called a “compromise” measure, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would expand federal background checks to include firearms sales at gun shows and online.
But, Sen. Mike Lee, D-Utah, tells WND, “This is legislation that would not have prevented these massacres from occurring.”
He adds, “It makes it odd that they’ve been using these tragedies, that no one ever wants to see repeated, as an excuse to pass legislation that would not have even stopped those very same things from occurring.”
Indeed, families of the Newtown victims personally lobbied lawmakers, knocking on doors in the halls of the Capitol and asking members to pass the background-check measure.
Obama called the families to encourage them. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama “congratulated them on this important step forward” and told them that it would not have been possible without their efforts.
This “important step forward,” the expanded background check, is a far cry from what Democrats originally – ideas that Vice President Joe Biden still is raising at every campaign stop.
On MSNBC this morning, Biden called for a limit on ammunition magazines and a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” He argued that smaller clips would have saved lives in the Newtown shootings.
When Reid dropped the measures that would limit magazines and ban certain weapons, he said they could be introduced as amendments. And, as WND reported last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to do that with the weapons ban.
However, few expect those measures to succeed, otherwise Reid would not have dropped them in the first place.
So, despite the continuing calls from Democrats to pass legislation to prevent mass shootings, their efforts now come down to the Toomey-Manchin proposal to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales. And even this measure worries many Republicans who are concerned it will do nothing to end violence but merely burden law-abiding gun owners with new regulations.
Critics have two main concerns. One is the legislation doesn’t address keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. The other is the background checks could lead to a national registry of gun owners.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement saying Obama should focus on mental health and gang violence.
“President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers,” the statement read.
“Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools,” it added.
Lee expressed concerns on the Senate floor today about a national registry of gun owners.
“Some of the proposals, like for example – universal background checks – would allow the federal government to surveil law-abiding citizens who exercise their constitutional rights.”
“One of the provisions we expect to see in the bill based on what we saw in the Judiciary Committee – on which I sit – would allow the attorney general of the United States to promulgate regulations that could lead to a national registry system for guns. Something my constituents in Utah are very concerned about, and understandably so,” said Lee.
The senator is also concerned that the government would want to monitor citizens exercising their constitutional rights.
“You see, the federal government has no business monitoring when or how often you go to church; what books and newspapers you read; who you vote for; your health conditions; what you eat for breakfast; and the details of your private life – including your lawful exercise of your rights protected by the Second Amendment and other provisions of the Bill of Rights.”
Today’s vote to remove the prospect of a filibuster means the Senate can now consider a variety of amendments. But it is a long way from guaranteeing any gun-control measure will pass in that chamber, no less, the House.
Expected are amendments on so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, as well as mental health, school safety, straw purchases and others.
As WND reported yesterday, subjecting the bill to the amendment process could backfire on Democrats.
A wary senior Democrat told the Washington Post the Republicans could add any number of NRA-backed amendments to the bill that would need only 51 votes to pass.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has warned of what he calls “pernicious” amendments that could undermine the bill.
And, while there are few GOP “swing” votes on guns, there are a number of Democratic “swing” votes, with five incumbents up for re-election. Additionally, gun-rights proposals have received strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate in the last few years.
Additionally, experts say there is little chance any legislation restricting Second Amendment rights would be passed in the Republican-controlled House.