Senate Rejects 4 Gun Proposals Inspired By Orlando Attack Just over a week after the deadly nightclub rampage in Florida, the Senate has voted down measures to expand background checks and limit purchases by those on terrorism watch lists.
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Senate Rejects 4 Gun Proposals Inspired By Orlando Attack

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Senate Rejects 4 Gun Proposals Inspired By Orlando Attack

Senate Rejects 4 Gun Proposals Inspired By Orlando Attack

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The Senate voted tonight on four different gun proposals, and they have all failed. This comes after Senate Democrats held the floor for 15 hours last week, pressuring Republicans to schedule votes on stronger gun control measures. Lawmakers on both sides acknowledge there is little chance these votes will change anything. Earlier today, I talked to NPR's congressional correspondent, Ailsa Chang, about the vote.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: The two that have gotten the most attention are competing proposals on how to deal with the terror watch list. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that terrorists shouldn't be able to buy guns. That's simple enough. But where they disagree is what to do when the government isn't sure if someone is a terrorist. The Democrats have been proposing that the Justice Department have the power to stop anyone who's been on the terror watch list within the last five years from buying a gun.

Meanwhile, Republicans have been pushing a measure that would let the government permanently stop someone on the terror watch list from buying a gun only if the government can convince a judge that there's probable cause the person is a terrorist.

MCEVERS: That sounds like a difficult thing to do. I mean, is that why Democrats are against that particular measure?

CHANG: Pretty much. I mean, their argument - the Democrats' argument has been if the government really had that much evidence, enough for probable cause, which is a really high evidentiary standard, then that person would've been arrested already for being a known or a suspected terrorist. And Republicans have said that's exactly the point. If you don't have very strong evidence that someone will commit terrorism, you shouldn't be limiting that person's Second Amendment rights. But Democrats say that's a very disingenuous argument. Here's how Chris Murphy of Connecticut put it.

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CHRIS MURPHY: I haven't heard these due process concerns when it comes to the right of Americans to travel. So we didn't hear any of these concerns about due process when the no-fly list was working effectively for years and years.

MCEVERS: All right, so the two other gun proposals - they are about background checks, right?

CHANG: Right.

MCEVERS: And we've see legislation like this before, haven't we?

CHANG: We have. Democrats proposed nearly the same exact measure in 2013 after the shootings in Newtown, and it failed then. It would require background checks by private sellers even at gun shows and over the Internet. The Republican proposal tonight focuses on people who are flagged as mentally ill during a background check. The measure would allow those people more ways to challenge that determination.

MCEVERS: All right, so for some time now, it has been widely assumed that all four of these measures would fail. Why is that?

CHANG: Well, Republicans I've talked to have said that it's just too soon after Orlando. That's why. On one hand, there was this great urgency to act right after the shootings in Orlando. But they say there hasn't been enough time for lawmakers to change their minds. Remember, these terror watch list proposals actually already failed in the Senate last December after the San Bernardino shootings.

And Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican, told me last week that if you wanted to convince senators to vote differently this time around, you would need more hearings. You would need more conversations. He says most of his colleagues still don't get what these terror watch lists are.

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BOB CORKER: We're going to vote with almost no one understanding how these lists are put together or how they're adjudicated, how you get off of them. And it's just - it's a shame.

CHANG: So Corker says right now, he resents being put in a position where he has to vote on something that doesn't get any closer to a solution. He says tonight is all about political theater.

MCEVERS: That's NPR congressional correspondent Ailsa Chang on four gun measures that have failed in the Senate.

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