Four gun control measures failed to pass the 60-vote threshold necessary to move forward in the U.S. Senate this week. Each vote was largely along party lines, and further demonstrated the unwillingness of the chamber to challenge the gun lobby.
The votes came just over a week after the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida—the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history—and the subsequent 15-hour filibuster by Senator Chris Murphy demanding a vote on gun control-related amendments to the annual appropriations bill.
“What we saw last night on the floor of the United States Senate was a shameful display of cowardice,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday.
The proposed amendments—two introduced by Democrats, two by Republicans—centered around two key issues: background checks for individuals attempting to purchase a gun and regulations to prevent the selling of guns to people who are suspected of terrorism.
Senator Murphy (D-CT) proposed an amendment that would close the so-called “gun show loophole” by requiring mandatory background checks for all gun sales, as well as expand the background check database. A competing proposal by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested increasing funding for agencies that provide background checks, stopping short of making them mandatory. Grassley’s amendment would also narrow the definition of “mentally deficient” for the purpose of buying guns, allowing those with psychological issues to legally purchase guns with relative ease.
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) amendment to prevent gun sales to known terrorists was rejected for the second time after a mass shooting—the first time being in December after the deadly San Bernardino shooting. The measure would ban anyone on an FBI terror watch list from purchasing a gun, unless he or she successfully challenges their place on the watch list in court.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) sponsored an amendment that would not ban gun sales to suspected terrorists, but would instead create a 72-hour waiting period for such purchases, and would allow a judge to permanently block the purchase if a court found probable cause that they were involved in terrorist activities within that waiting period.
In the wake of the failure of Monday’s amendments, several moderate senators, led by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) are working to put together a compromise that may have some bipartisan support. A vote is expected today.
During debate on amendments like these, it is important to recognize that in labeling the Orlando shooter as a “terrorist,” it becomes easy to forget another definition of his violent past: that of domestic abuser. Those under investigation for terrorizing their families in private should be under just as much gun owning scrutiny as those who intend to terrorize the public. Today, both suspected terrorists and domestic abusers, even those under a temporary restraining order, go unchecked on the federal level in their right to bear arms. Under the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban law, however, a convicted domestic abuser cannot possess or purchase a gun.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 57 percent of mass shooters have included a spouse, former spouse or other family member in their victim count; 16 percent of the killers had been previously arrested for domestic violence.
Women fleeing domestic violence are particularly vulnerable to increased violence and death. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries, and victims of domestic violence who live in homes with guns have an 8-fold increase in homicide risk.