US Senate rejects gun control proposals

The US Senate has voted against four new gun control measures, including proposals to keep arms out of the hands of people on terror watch lists.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A plane pulls a banner that reads "#EndGunViolence" flies over a vigil for the Pulse night club victims following last week's shooting in Orlando, Florida, US. June 19, 2016.

The US Senate rejected four gun control amendments on Monday in the wake of last week’s mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.

The proposals, aimed at expanding background checks on gun buyers and kerbing gun sales to those on terrorism watch lists, failed to secure the 60 votes needed for passage in the 100-member chamber.

Two proposals from the Republicans called for an increase in funding for the national background check system and to keep suspected terrorists from buying weapons by establishing a 72-hour review period for delaying transactions.

The remaining two proposals from the Democrats were aimed at stopping sales of firearms to people on "terrorism watch lists" and expanding background checks to private gun sales.

Since last week’s mass shooting in Orlando, the deadliest in US history, lawmakers have come under severe pressure to pass effective gun control measures.

Gun control activists participate in a vigil in front of the National Rifle Association (NRA) June 20, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia.

The Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, was able to legally purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle and a handgun before killing 49 people, despite his 10-month inclusion on a federal terrorism watch list.

The Senate’s failure to pass gun control legislation is in large part due to the extremely polarised debate surrounding gun policy.  

NRA's big guns

The NRA has a significant influence on the US Senate, and its 5 million members can play a deciding factor on whether a senator who is up for re-election will be successful.

The NRA grades senators over their stance on gun rights. It has awarded 56 senators an A grade and 36 senators an F in the 100-member Senate. Only 11 senators are not decidedly pro or anti-gun control.

At least 60 votes are needed to pass any gun control legislation. Senators usually vote along party lines on the issue.

Research by the Center for Responsive Politics in 2016 revealed pro-gun rights groups have donated nearly $1 million to the Senate.

Over $300,000 was donated to campaigns of senators during the 2014 election cycle and $615,971 was spent on independent expenditures in support of candidates.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, who sponsored one of the failed proposals, reacted furiously after the legislation failed to pass, saying, "I’m mortified by today’s vote but I’m not surprised by it, the NRA has a vice-like grip on this place."

Republicans and their allies in the NRA gun lobby said the Democrats' bills were too restrictive and trampled on the constitutional right to bear arms. Democrats attacked the Republicans' two proposals as too weak and accused them of being in the thrall of the NRA.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week show 71 percent of Americans are in favour of more restrictions on guns in a country with more than 310 million weapons, about one for every citizen.

Supporters of gun legislation took to Twitter to vent their frustration at the Senate for voting against the amendments.




Some Republicans have pinned their hopes on a fifth measure put forward by Senator Susan Collins, a Maine lawmaker, who is set to unveil her proposal on Tuesday.  

Her plan would restrict gun purchases by those on a "no-fly" list or a "selectee" list of people who require additional screening at airports.

Congress has not passed new gun restrictions since a 2007 expansion of the government’s automatic background check database to include individuals with a history of mental illness and felons.

TRTWorld and agencies