Competing Gun Control Proposals That Could Reach Senate Floor
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Four gun measures will reach the floor of the U.S. Senate next week following Sunday's killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. These measures would try to prevent people on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms and it - they would expand background checks for gun purchases to include gun shows and mental health history. All the measures are expected to fail. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, joins us now. He's been involved in bipartisan negotiations. Senator, thanks for much for being with us.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Wonderful to be with you, thanks so much for having me.
SIMON: I'm going to assume a careful man like you has counted yeas and nays. Do you agree these measures will all fail?
BLUMENTHAL: The likelihood is that these measures, as proposed so far, will fail to get the 60 votes - it's a 60-vote threshold for each - that's required for passage. But that doesn't mean that the effort will fail. The conversations about bipartisan compromise will continue as they have off and on since Sandy Hook in Connecticut, the massacre that killed 20 beautiful children, six great educators. And I'm still hopeful that we will succeed in measures to stop terrorists from buying guns - everybody ought to be able to agree on that principle - and also expanding background checks so we can enforce existing laws against dangerous people having guns as well.
SIMON: Well, what's the opportunity you see for some kind of bipartisan agreement that would actually make a bill passable?
BLUMENTHAL: My colleagues are going to have to look at themselves in the mirror after Orlando and Charleston, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and they're going to have to look at their constituents in the eyes this November. So I think the American people are going to hold accountable the folks who are in the Senate right now and others who will be running for re-election in later years. And 90 percent of the American people - the overwhelming majority of gun owners want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. That's the principle at stake here.
SIMON: So you believe that the onset of elections will concentrate the minds of legislators.
BLUMENTHAL: The onset of elections and the growing outrage of the American people. We're talking here about killers who pledge allegiance to ISIS, the impact and influence of our enemies abroad like ISIS in supporting and inspiring the homegrown terrorists and lone wolves that pose such a real and immediate and growing danger to public safety.
And so I think that a realization about the threat from abroad - we have to fight ISIS abroad but also the impact and influence here in the United States of the failure to achieve basic gun safety laws like background checks and a ban on terrorists buying guns.
SIMON: Just have a little over a minute left. What would you say to people, Senator, who are skeptical that federal laws will help when the FBI questioned Omar Mateen and removed him from the watchlist and there's an abundance of assault rifles on the streets already that people intent on murder can acquire easily?
BLUMENTHAL: These two steps, banning terrorists from buying guns and expanding background checks, are hardly the end or the perfect solution. In fact, there is no single solution. These measures are a start - the most noncontroversial, simple, straightforward start - and have to be accompanied by a ban on assault weapons, the military-style semi-automatics that were used at Sandy Hook, now Orlando, San Bernardino, and other measures, like removing the unique immunity from legal responsibility of the gun manufacturers and protecting domestic (unintelligible).
So it's really a combination of measures that are necessary. And even then, we will not prevent every single gun death in America, but we can make a start. We can save lives, and that's our obligation.
SIMON: Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, thanks so much for being with us, sir.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
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