After defeat, gun bill’s backers seek to keep issue alive
WASHINGTON — The last whimpers of the gun control debate in the Senate played out in anticlimactic fashion on Thursday as lawmakers began the process of formally moving on.
All that remained of a broad package of measures representing the most serious changes to the nation’s gun laws in 20 years were two amendments: one that would address mental health care, and another that would penalize states that divulge information about gun owners except under very specific circumstances like a criminal investigation.
Both passed overwhelmingly, the only two gun-related measures to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for passage. The vote on the amendments has no practical effect, since the underlying legislation has no immediate prospect of passing.
Despite the push from proponents of stricter gun regulations, the amendments that received the most support in two days of voting were not the ones that tightened restrictions on weapons purchases, but the ones that loosened them.
Fifty-seven senators voted on Wednesday to essentially nullify state laws that prohibit carrying concealed weapons. Fifty-six senators voted to restore gun ownership rights to veterans who have had them taken away.
In the end, only 54 voted for a compromise plan to expand background checks for gun buyers, 46 voted to ban high-capacity magazines, and 40 voted to renew a ban on certain military-style rifles.
While supporters of plans to strengthen the regulation of gun purchases, including Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, vowed to keep the issue alive, the growing consensus on Capitol Hill was that any effort to resuscitate the legislation was far away.
Senate Democrats believe that their best option is to put their bill in the procedural equivalent of a deep freeze. Reid is expected to exercise an option that allows him to put the bill in an indefinite hold so he can bring it back up later.
“Make no mistake: this debate is not over,” Reid said Thursday. “This is not the end of the fight. Republicans are in an unsustainable position — crosswise with nine out of 10 Americans.”
After the series of gun control amendments went down to defeat on Wednesday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who played a central role in the early efforts to bring together a bipartisan coalition to support stronger background checks, said he did not see a viable path forward in the near term.