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Disarm Hate

Senate Republicans Block Any Action Against Gun Violence

Last night, just a little more than a week after the deadliest mass-shooting in U.S. history, the senate failed yet again to pass legislation that would help address gun violence by keeping guns out of dangerous hands. After Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) 15-hour filibuster last Wednesday, the Senate agreed to a vote on four different measures aimed at closing two dangerous loopholes in the country’s current gun laws—the background check loophole and the terror gap. Despite overwhelming support from the American people—including gun owners—to close both loopholes, each amendment failed.

Democrats in the Senate have been working to pass legislation to require background checks on all gun sales for years and have been working to close the terror gap since 2007 when the idea was supported by the Bush administration. This week, after a mass murderer killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) put forward alternatives to the measures offered by Senators Murphy and Diane Feinstein (D-CA). But in reality, the conservative proposals would make little meaningful difference in keeping guns out of dangerous hands. Here’s a breakdown of each of the bills:

  • Murphy Amendment #4750, Background checks: Requires a background check for all gun sales, with some reasonable exceptions like: transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges.
  • Grassley Amendment # 4751, Background checks: Grassley’s amendment does not close the private sale loophole. Instead, it would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment. It would also allow veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns.
  • Feinstein Amendment #4720, Terror gap: Gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored.
  • Cornyn Amendment #4749, Terror gap: An individual on the terror watchlist will be able to purchase a gun unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. The accused individual must have an opportunity to be present to contest the evidence against him/her and present their own – all of which must occur within 3 business days.

BOTTOM LINE: Between 2004 and 2014, individuals on the consolidated terror watch list passed a background check and were legally able to purchase a firearm 2,043 times and many more likely bought guns through unregulated private purchases. But instead of putting partisan politics aside and passing legislation that would make a meaningful difference in fighting gun violence, Senate Republicans put forward their own empty proposals, blocking any progress and protecting terrorists’ rights to buy guns.