The Senate narrowly rejected an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have allowed people with concealed weapons to carry them across state lines.
The measure, backed by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), was defeated in a 58-39 vote, two yeas short of the 60 required. Gun advocates wanted the bill so that permit holders in one state could transport concealed weapons into a second state, even if they were ineligible for the permit under that state's laws. Opponents said it would have forced states with strict laws to accept permits from states with less stringent laws.
The defeat, a victory for the White House and Democrats, comes a day after the Senate voted 58-40 to eliminate $1.75 billion in the $680 billion defense bill for building more F-22 fighters, which President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates campaigned against.
The gun proposal would not have exempted permit holders from obeying the laws of other states, such as weapons bans in certain localities. It would also not allow them to carry weapons into Wisconsin and Illinois, the two states that ban concealed weapons outright.
Before the vote, Thune said his legislation "enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws." The measure was backed by the National Rifle Association.
But gun control groups strongly opposed the measure. The Violence Policy Center said concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens during a two-year period ending in April.
"It is beyond irrational for Congress to vote to expand the reach of these deadly laws," said the center's legislative director, Kristen Rand, before the vote.
It was the first major defeat for gun rights advocates so far this year after they managed to attach a provision to a credit card bill signed into law that restores the right to carry loaded firearms in national parks, and coupled a Senate vote giving the District of Columbia a vote in the House with a provision effectively ending the district's tough gun control laws.
From NPR staff and wire service reports.