What’s going on with gun control legislation this year?

2 min read

The nation was struck by tragedy in the early morning hours of June 12, when a gunman in Orlando opened fire in a gay nightclub, killing 49 people and then committing suicide. Almost unimaginably, that was only the beginning of shocking events, as the days that followed brought the killing of Philando Castile and Alton Stirling by police officers and the July 7 ambush in Dallas that left five officers dead and injured nine others. The violent events sparked debates among lawmakers about how to respond and prvent future tragedies. 

Senate Filibuster

On June 15, Sen. Christopher Murphy [D, CT] stood to speak and proceeded to hold the floor for the next 14 hours and 50 minutes, now the ninth-longest Senate floor speech since 1900. The filibuster ended the next morning at 2:11 am, as lawmakers reached an agreement to hold votes on gun-related measures. 

The next Monday (June 20), Senate considered four gun control measures, two Democratic proposals and two Republican proposals, as amendments to Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill. ‚ÄčProposal from Sens. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] and Ted Cruz [R, TX] was similar to previously introduced gun control bill. All four measures failed.

  • S.AMDT.4720 (No Fly/No Buy) from Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA] to authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists. Amendment failed 47-53

  • S.AMDT.4749 "To Secure our Homeland from radical Islamists by Enhancing Law enforcement Detection (SHIELD)" from Sen. John Cornyn, [R, TX] requiring that law enforcement be alerted when anyone on the terror watch list attempts to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. Amendment failed 53-47

  • S.AMDT.4750 (Closing the Gun Show Loophole): "To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale." from Sen. Chris Murphy [D, CT] requiring every gun purchaser to undergo a background check, and to expand the background check database. Amendment failed 44-56

  • S.AMDT.4751 "To address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System." from Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA] to make it more difficult to add mentally ill people to the background check database, giving people suspected of serious mental illness a process to challenge that determination. Amendment failed 53-47

Later in the week, Sens. Susan Collins [R-ME] and Heidi Heitkamp [D-ND] unveiled bipartisan Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, which would prevent people on the No-Fly List and the Selectee List from purchasing firearms. The legislation was more narrow than the Democratic amendments put forward earlier in the week, but more sweeping than the Republican proposals. The Collins/Heitkamp compromise survived a procedural vote on June 23, receiving 52 votes in support and 46 in opposition, meaning the proposal mustered enough support to keep it from being tabled indefinitely but not enough to ensure that it would achieve cloture in the future.

Prominent Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte [R-NH] and Jeff Flake [R-AZ] lobbied fellow senators to build support for the bill. On June 23 by Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Ron Johnson [R-WI] introduced a more limited measure, placing burden on government to prevent gun sale, rather than requiring the potential buyer to appeal a denied sale. The Johnson measure also received a roll call vote on whether to table the legislation: 31 senators supported advancing the measure, 67 senators voted to table.

House Sit-in

On June 23, House Democrats held a 25-hour sit-in on the House Floor, pressing for a vote on several gun-related billsSenate Democrats joined in, sending care packages and sitting on the House floor alongside Democratic colleagues.

The House was adjourned so the official House cameras, which feed CSPAN broadcasts, were off, as House rules require that the cameras be turned off when the House is not formally in session. With no official coverage, members on the floor began streaming the protest via Periscope and Facebook Live. CSPAN followed suit and began broadcasting the Persicope feeds, as more Members joined in. (Here’s how it went down.)

On July 11, House Republican leaders decided to postpone vote on gun-related legislation, and gaveled out for summer recess.