On Guns, Leahy Says Congress Has Failed To Enact Critical First Step

Jun 21, 2016

Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's disappointed the Senate won't act on what he calls "common sense" gun control legislation. In the aftermath of the horrific shooting tragedy in Orlando, Florida where 50 people were killed, there's been a lot of pressure on Congress to take steps to restrict gun sales. On Monday evening, Leahy's colleagues rejected bills proposed by both parties to deal with this issue.

The Democrats offered two amendments to an appropriations bill. One prevented anyone who's been identified as a potential terrorist from buying a gun. The second plan expanded the scope of background checks at gun shows and for gun sales on the Internet.

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Both failed to win the 60 votes needed to proceed with debate.

Leahy says both proposals were a critical first step in restricting the sale of weapons to individuals who shouldn't be allowed to purchase a firearm. He thinks the public supports this approach.

"If you said should we keep guns out of people's hands that are on the "no-fly" list or the terrorism watchlist they'd say that's a no-brainer. Well, I agree with them," Leahy said.

The Republicans also offered two plans. The most significant delayed the sale of a weapon to a person on the federal terrorism watchlist for a period of three days while the purchase is reviewed.

Both of these measures also failed to win enough votes to be debated on the Senate floor.

Leahy says the Republican approach would have had very little impact.

"There were mostly fig leaves — they don't go very far," said Leahy. "I don't know how somebody stands up, votes for something that wouldn't have done anything to stop the Orlando shooting and then go home and say, "boy, I'm voting to protect you."

Leahy says he would like to go even further to restrict the availability of certain weapons and supports reinstating a ban on assault weapons and large magazine clips that expired in 2004.

"It was a good thing. It expired during the Bush Administration where it had been supported by Democrats and Republicans," said Leahy. "It should have been renewed and not allowed to expire."

Leahy says he's pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal of a Connecticut law that bans assault weapons and large capacity magazines.

He says it shows that states can limit the sale of certain firearms without violating the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.