US Senate kills another attempt to reform gun laws

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 21, 2016 22:16 IST
US senator Christopher Murphy speaks as other senators participate in a news conference on gun control at the Capitol in Washington on Monday. The Senate failed to pass four competing amendments on gun control just a week after the worst mass shooting in modern US history at a gay nightclub in Orlando. (AFP)

Voting along party lines, US senators on Monday killed yet another attempt to fix the country’s slack gun laws, launched this time in the aftermath of the carnage in Orlando.

They voted down two competing proposals, one each by a Democrat and a Republican, to prevent suspected terrorists such as the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, from buying guns. Mateen gunned down 49 people at a gay nightclub.

The senators also defeated one measure extending background checks to gun fairs, exhibitions and online sales, and another that proposed to address the issue of gun violence as a mental health problem.

“What am I going to tell 49 grieving families?” Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat representing Florida, asked after the votes. “I am going to tell them the NRA won again.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful pro-gun lobby that worked to defeat these measures, and others before, dubbing them an assault on the right to bear arms.

Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for the failure to pass the measures, but few, if any, expected them to pass, holding both parties equally accountable.

As The New York Times noted, Democrats, who favour gun reforms, “were eager (after Orlando) to press their advantage and were not about to make it easy for Republicans”.

And Republicans, who have largely opposed gun reforms, “with much on the line in this election year, were not willing to cross the National Rifle Association”, the Times said.

The result: the same as before. An attempt to prevent terrorists from getting guns after the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino last December met with the same outcome.

And an attempt to extend background checks after the horrific killing of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 met the same fate despite the outrage felt all around.

After the failure of the Senate vote, a furious President Barack Obama, flanked by Newtown families, had said then, “All in all, it was a pretty shameful day in Washington.”

Reacting to Monday’s vote, Obama’s press secretary said, “What we saw last night on the floor of the US Senate was a shameful display of cowardice.” He went on to blame Republican for the failed votes.

But there is some hope left, hinged on a compromise legislation being shepherded by a Republican senator, which has gathered some bipartisan support, and is likely to be put to vote soon.

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