Fifty-seven senators voted Wednesday to dramatically expand gun rights after the background check legislation was scuttled, a sign that even amid the most concerted gun control push in two decades, there remains more Senate support for loosening gun laws than tightening them.
The National Rifle Association-backed measure, brought by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) as an amendment to gun legislation, would have made a concealed carry permit in one state valid in other states. In other words, if it passed, California would be forced to let someone carry a concealed weapon in public if they were permitted to do so, say, by the state of Kansas.The bill failed as it was subject to a filibuster-proof 60 vote threshold, like all amendments. But thirteen Democrats joined all but one Republican (Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk) in voting for it. It received more votes than background check legislation, which would have modestly tightened the nation’s gun laws and managed to find 55 supporters.
“This amendment would wreak havoc in large portions of America — suburban and urban areas,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said just before the vote on Cornyn’s amendment. “Because there are no residency requirements, criminals from all states could go to states, Florida is one, get a concealed carry permit and legally — criminals, felons — concealed carry in other states.”
“Let Wyoming do what they want to do on concealed carry, but don’t impose that on New York, and vice versa,” he said.
Cornyn said his legislation was “designed to protect the fundamental Second Amendment rights of American citizens who are traveling or temporarily away from home while they hold a concealed handgun license.” He called it “background checks on steroids.”
Pro-gun proponents love the measure. Similar legislation was brought in 2009 by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and received 58 votes. Democratic leaders worked hard to ensure its defeat this time around, worrying that its inclusion could poison and likely scuttle the final legislation.
Along with the Cornyn measure Wednesday, well over a majority of senators also voted for amendments offered by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) that contained provisions gun control advocates feared would weaken gun safety laws. By contrast, fewer than a majority of senators voted to ban assault weapons or restrict high-capacity ammunition clips.
The votes reveal that the filibuster, shortly after killing expanded background checks supported by 90 percent of the public, worked to protect a priority of the gun control side.
Fifty-five senators supported the background check bill. The final tally was 54-46 because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), switched his vote to no in the last minute to reserve the right to bring up the bill again, which he later pledged to keep fighting for.