Senate to Vote on Bipartisan Gun Control Measure
Sen. Susan Collins’ gun control measure faces a tough vote in the upper chamber Thursday, a day after Democrats across the Capitol staged a sit-in on the House floor, demanding that Speaker Paul Ryan allow the lower chamber to vote on similar legislation.
Collins’ bipartisan proposal – an amendment to a funding bill – would prevent individuals on the “no-fly” or the “selectee” list from purchasing a gun. (The latter designation applies to people singled out for extra security screening before being allowed to board an airplane.) Anyone on the lists would be able to appeal the decision.
“The total on these lists is approximately 109,000 people, the vast majority of whom are foreign nationals,” the Maine Republican said in a press conference Tuesday where she introduced the measure. “Essentially, we believe that if you are too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun.”
But the powerful National Rifle Association came out against her plan shortly after she proposed it. Meanwhile, Rep. John Lewis led the coalition of Democrats calling for action on gun control and chanting “No bill, no break” during their sit-in Wednesday. (The “break” refers to the upcoming Fourth of July recess.) Lewis called for “common-sense gun control legislation,” including expanded background checks and the prevention of those on the no-fly list from purchasing guns.
Rep. John Larson echoed Lewis’ statement, asking for Ryan “to provide us with the simple dignity that everyone is calling for: a vote.”
The protest came 10 days after the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass-shooting in modern United States history.
In the Senate, Collins has support from both sides of the aisle. Joining her at Tuesday’s press conference were fellow Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine, Angus King, and Bill Nelson.
The measure would also create a “look-back alert” that would inform the FBI if someone who has been on the terror watch list in the last five years buys a gun.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who earlier staged a 15-hour filibuster to spur action on gun control in the Senate, was encouraged by Collins’ proposed amendment.
“I’m very encouraged that there are Republicans and Democrats sitting down, willing to break with the NRA,” Murphy said. “We are watching a watershed moment in this place, where the NRA may no longer have veto power over gun policy.”
This bipartisan effort comes in reaction to four measures that failed in the Senate Monday. All were amendments to an appropriations bill that would fund the Department of Justice, among other agencies. Two of them were proposed by Democrats and two by Republicans, and the votes, for the most part, were split on party lines. None of the four amendments had been expected to pass.
Collins needs 60 votes in order for her proposal to pass procedural hurdles and advance, which requires support from both parties. But the ability to gain that threshold is in doubt given the failure of Monday’s votes.