With the shadow of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history still hanging over the country, the Senate failed to pass Monday several measures aimed at reforming the nation’s gun laws.
The proposed laws came in response to the news that Omar Mateen, the man who allegedly killed 49 people and injured many more at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, had purchased his weapons legally. Though Mateen had a history of violent and homophobic behavior and had previously been interviewed by the FBI in terror investigations, the current law did not prohibit him from buying the weapons used in last week’s massacre because no formal charges had been brought against him.
Amendments proposed by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Chris Murphy sought to give the Department of Justice the power to prevent firearm sales to persons based on a “reasonable belief” that they intend to commit an act of terror, as well as close the notorious “gun show loophole” that allows one to purchase firearms without a background check.
A Government Accountability Office report requested by Feinstein revealed last week that 91 percent of known or suspected terrorists pass the background checks required to purchase a firearm.
“Had this amendment been in place, it would have allowed the Attorney General to…investigate and determine whether to deny the gun based on this man’s entire history,” Feinstein said Monday on the Senate floor.
Jewish Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, and Chuck Schumer also sponsored Feinstein’s amendment. Blumenthal and Schumer joined Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in sponsoring Murphy’s amendment.
Monday’s gun control vote was Democratic presidential hopeful Sander’s first vote in the Senate since January.
“Frankly, these Democratic amendments are no-brainers,” Sanders said in a statement Monday. “It is incomprehensible to me, and I believe to the vast majority of Americans, as to why Republicans would oppose them.”
Two similar amendments proposed by the Republican majority whip Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Chuck Grassley also failed to surpass the 60-vote threshold as senators largely stuck to party lines. Though the Cornyn amendment also sought to ban gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list, it suggested the more stringent standard of “probable cause” when denying a gun to a suspected terrorist.
Cornyn slammed Feinstein’s measure as insufficient to protect the American people’s Second Amendment rights.
“We all agree that terrorists should not be able to purchase a weapon,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor. “The question before us is whether we’re going to do so in a way that’s constitutional.”
The American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against both Cornyn and Feinstein’s proposals in a letter, citing that they both lacked “adequate due process safeguards.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s ban on carry concealed firearms, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Connecticut ban on assault weapons.
Contact Drew Gerber at email@example.com or on Twitter, @dagerber