Senate Rejects 4 Gun Measures Sparked By Orlando Shooting

Jun 21, 2016
Originally published on June 21, 2016 7:50 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, eight days after Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, a set of gun measures came up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. They were voted down. A few senators are still working on a possible compromise bill. But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, there is little chance of that getting through Congress this election year.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: What's changed since Newtown? It's a question many fighting for gun control keep asking. But Erica Lafferty Smegielski will tell you plenty has changed inside the Capitol after her mother Dawn Hochsprung was gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It took four months for the Senate to vote on gun control bills.

ERICA LAFFERTY SMEGIELSKI: Four days out. They agreed that they were going to have a vote after Orlando. It took four days instead of four months.

CHANG: And that, she says, is unmistakable progress, plain and simple. But then there was a moment last night when Smegielski was perched in the seats overlooking the Senate chamber watching the senators file in to vote. And that's when she strained to frame the last three years as progress.

SMEGIELSKI: It was eerily similar, you know, being in there and just watching it fail again.

CHANG: The defeat of gun control legislation was faster and quieter this year. Democrats once again failed to push through a measure to expand background checks to gun shows and Internet sales as well as a measure to stop people on the terror watch list from buying guns. Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut had led the charge to get Senate leaders to schedule these votes.

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CHRIS MURPHY: I'm mortified by today's vote, but I'm not surprised by it. We learned in the months after Sandy Hook that the NRA has a vice-like grip on this place.

CHANG: Also voted down was a Republican measure that would've required probable cause before the government could permanently stop anyone on the terror watch list from buying a gun. John Cornyn of Texas wrote that bill and said Democrats were ignoring due process and missing the larger issue.

JOHN CORNYN: What we really need to do is focus on the failed strategy to deal with ISIS, the Islamic State and their radical ideology, which is radicalizing American citizens at home. To me, if we were really focused on the problem, it ought to be focused on counterterrorism, not anti-Second Amendment votes and gun control.

CHANG: But there is a small and growing group of Republicans now trying to figure out if there's a compromise. Susan Collins of Maine has crafted a bill that would stop people on two smaller lists from buying guns - the no-fly list and the secondary security screening selection list. That one subjects certain airplane passengers to more scrutiny.

SUSAN COLLINS: There is tremendous interest. I have had calls from literally dozens of senators over the weekend and today.

CHANG: The bill would stop a more targeted group of people from getting guns. But Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says it would scoop up the right people, especially those on the no-fly list.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: There are no Bubbas (ph) on this list. If you're on this list and not cause you went to Tea Party rally or you've got a political axe with the president or you're - you know, you're liberal. You're on this list because you're doing things that unnerved the FBI to the point you can't fly on an airplane.

CHANG: But even if the measure does get a vote in the Senate, it would still need to pass in the House. And there's no indication that chamber has any desire to take up gun control legislation this election year. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.