Senate Blocks Gun Controls Pushed After Orlando Massacre: 'What Am I Going to Tell 49 Grieving Families?' Asks Florida Senator
"I'm disappointed by the results tonight, but far from surprised," says Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy
The U.S. Senate rejected four new gun control proposals on Monday evening, one week after the shooting attack in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people.
All four of the measures required 60 votes for passage. The first amendment, proposed by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, would have increased funding for and sought to improve the background check system. Democratic critics argued that language in the bill would have rolled back current protections, according to The Associated Press. The Senate blocked the first measure on a 53-47 vote.
The Senate also rejected a measure proposed by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, and backed by Senate Democrats, that would have expanded background checks to all private gun sales. The Senate blocked that legislation on a 44-56 vote.
Republicans and Democrats also proposed two dueling measures that would have halted suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. The Republican proposal, from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, would have denied a sale only if a judge found probable cause that the person trying to purchase the gun was involved in terrorist activities. The Senate blocked that legislation on a 53-47 vote.
The Democratic plan, from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would have allowed the Justice Department to block sales of guns to those suspected of having terrorist connections. The Senate blocked that legislation on a 47-53 vote.
The four votes come after Murphy filibustered for nearly 15 hours on the Senate floor on Wednesday in an effort to pressure Republicans to pass gun control legislation that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying guns.
“I’m disappointed by the results tonight, but far from surprised,” Murphy said Monday night in a statement to PEOPLE. “We knew breaking the NRA’s stranglehold on this Congress would be a long, uphill climb. The fact is Americans want a background check system that prevents dangerous people and terrorists from getting their hands on guns.”
“It will take time, but I firmly believe that our democracy does not allow a Congress to be this far out-of-step with the views and values of the people for very long,” he added. “This country is rising up to demand stronger, safer gun laws, and in the face of unspeakable tragedy, our movement for change got stronger this week.”
Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson angrily denounced the vote, saying afterward, “What am I going to tell 49 grieving families? The NRA wins again.”
Although the majority of Americans support legislation that would halt gun sales to suspected terrorists, The Washington Post, among other outlets, predicted Murphy’s measure would fail “because those who oppose stricter gun laws are, on the whole, more passionate and politically organized than the average voters who support them.”
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted after December’s San Bernardino shooting showed that 83 percent of registered voters supported banning gun purchases for those on the government’s terrorist watch list. The proposal saw support from 89 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans, as well as 80 percent of people in gun-owning households. A Gallup poll, also conducted in December, found that 71 percent of adults believed banning gun sales to people on the federal no-fly list would be effective in the U.S. fight against terrorism.
The Post points out, however, that a 2013 Pew Research Study found that “people who prioritize gun rights over gun control are four or five times more likely to contribute money to advocacy groups, contact public officials, sign petitions and express their views on social media.”
Even the notoriously obstinate Donald Trump walked back his support for measures prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list or the no-fly list from buying guns, after apparently caving to pressure from the NRA.
“The NRA has the best interests of our country” at heart, Trump said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation, following a meeting with the organization. “These are great people.”