After Newtown, More Senators Vote To Weaken Gun Laws Than Strengthen Them

An amendment to weaken gun safety laws attracted more votes in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday afternoon than did a compromise measure to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales. The votes represented the Senate’s first legislative response to the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) NRA-backed proposal to require all states to recognize out-of-state permits for concealed handguns received 57 votes, while the background check amendment offered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) only achieved 54 supporters. Both fell short of the 60-vote threshold, however.

Under the so-called “concealed carry reciprocity” measure, states with tighter gun regulations would have had to accept permit holders from states with looser standards — even if those permit holders would have been prevented from carrying guns in the state where they are traveling. Federal law only prohibits felons and a few other categories of people from possessing guns, leading many states to enact more restrictions.

In a letter to Congress during the 2009 debate on a concealed carry reciprocity amendment offered by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Mayors Against Illegal Guns warned that the effort could empower illegal gun traffickers by allowing them to purchase guns in one state and then drive them across state lines with impunity — so long as they hold an out-of-state permit. Law enforcement would be required to honor concealed carry permits from all 50 states but without properly verifying their authenticity.

Thirteen Democrats supported Cornyn’s measure, including, Sens. Baucus, Begich, Donnelly, Hagan, Heinrich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Manchin, Pryor, Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Tester, Warner.

Proposals to limit gun trafficking and outlaw assault weapons also fell by wide margins.