Members of the U.S. Senate today began debate on four gun control measures, two sponsored by Democrats, two by Republicans. On the Democratic side, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "no fly, no buy" bill would prevent gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list and Sen. Chris Murphy's bill would provide for background checks in online sales and at gun shows.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn's alternative to Feinstein's bill would "allow the government to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for 72 hours, but require prosecutors to go to court to show probable cause to block the sale permanently," the Associated Press reports. And Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's alternative on background checks would increase funding for background checks but change some of the language regarding mental health issues that would result in denial of a gun purchase, but opponents say this language would actually allow more people to buy guns.
Each of the bills needed 60 yes votes in order to be added to larger federal spending legislation.
6:48 p.m. Eastern: Feinstein bill has failed too. Final total is 47 in favor, 53 against.
6:36 p.m. Eastern: Cornyn bill also fails to win the 60 votes needed to proceed.
6:15 p.m. Eastern: Murphy bill fails as well. Final vote is 44 in favor, 56 against.
5:57 p.m. Eastern: Grassley bill fails to get the 60 votes necessary to proceed. Final vote is 53 in favor, 47 against.
5:50 p.m. Eastern: Voting on Grassley bill.
5:30 p.m. Eastern, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D): Would not be here discussing this if he and colleagues hadn't filibustered last week. There is wide support for gun control among voters, even greater among Republicans than Democrats. Amendments offered by Cornyn and Grassley "aren't even half-measures." Community hurts from losses, but it becomes worse when your leaders are silent. Closes with words of man who lost his son at Sandy Hook: "I know you can't give me Jesse back ... but I want to believe that you'll think about it and do something about it."
5:25 p.m. Eastern, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Displays pictures of semiautomatic weapon similar to the one used in Orlando. "Do we want [terrorists] to be able to purchase these weapons?" Feinstein's bill, he says, provides for ban on sales not only to those currently on terrorist watch list, but for FBI notification of purchases by those who had been on watch list in past, like Omar Mateen. "We hear words, words, words. All of it is the NRA" blocking Republicans from voting for gun control.
5:20 p.m. Eastern, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R): Problem with Feinstein amendment doesn't make it easy for someone who is wrongly on terrorist watch list to clear their name. Cornyn bill is better. Toomey and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are working on way to deny guns to terrorists but make sure there is due process to get name off list if on there wrongly. Both Feinstein and Cornyn bills will fail, he predicts. Collins legislation will be unveiled soon. Her bill or Toomey's deserves a vote, he says.
5:08 p.m., Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R): "We should all be addressing the real problem of radical Islamic terrorism." But Democrats have chosen to make this a debate about guns. Says there is misinformation out there — no one can buy a fully automatic weapon without a background check, contrary to what Minority Leader Harry Reid said. Weapon used in Orlando was a semiautomatic. Says terrorist watch list is flawed and shouldn't be used to deny gun rights. Feinstein amendment would violate Second Amendment rights. People on lists have not been convicted of any crime. Cites Los Angeles Times editorial against using watch lists to deny guns. Says Feinstein amendment wouldn't have stopped Orlando or San Bernardino shootings. Says American Civil Liberties Union opposes Feinstein amendment on constitutional grounds. Claims homicide rates are higher in Connecticut despite its tough gun control than in many states with fewer restrictions, such as Iowa. The Washington Post recently reported no correlation between gun laws and homicides. Admits there are not background checks on peer-to-peer sales, but gun shows are not "free-for-alls."
4:57 p.m. Eastern, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California (D): She and Feinstein learned the dangers of gun violence shortly after taking office in 1993, when a man with an assault weapon stormed a law office in San Francisco. One of those killed was the best friend of one of Boxer's sons. "When is the time to do something about" gun violence? "This is the moment for us to do the right thing." Should have done it after any of earlier mass shootings, but let's do it now. Three hundred thousand people are killed by a gun over past 10 years. "Should weapons of war be allowed on our streets? ... Those weapons have no business being in civilian hands." Today U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case challenging Connecticut's assault weapons ban. "That is good news." Responsible people should be able to get a gun by passing a background check, but must keep guns away from those who shouldn't have them. Gun control laws work. Have decreased gun fatalities in Germany, in her home state, and elsewhere. "We can respect the Second Amendment and pass gun safety laws. ... There are 30,000 reasons to pass these amendments," number of people killed by gun violence every year.
4:39 p.m. Eastern, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas (R): Feinstein's bill is unconstitutional and would have done nothing to prevent the Orlando shooter from buying a gun. His bill would assure that terrorists are put in jail as well as denied gun purchase. He notes that late Sen. Ted Kennedy was once placed on a terror watch list by mistake and had difficulty getting off it. Feinstein counters that her bill would have covered the Orlando shooter. Cornyn disagrees.
4:17 p.m. Eastern, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California (D): Terror watch list is a targeted list. The full terror watch list is bigger than the "no fly" list. Her bill allows for due process, for someone who is denied a gun to learn why they were denied. Cornyn's bill sets too high a bar to block a gun purchase, and if court hearing not completed in 72 hours, the sale goes through and "the terrorist gets the gun." Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has proposed a more limited bill focusing only on the "no fly" list. That is too narrow, says Feinstein — "leaves out close to 90 percent of known or suspected terrorists." Justice Department and White House support her amendment. "Terrorist groups ... know that our gun laws are weak and can be exploited." Have been fighting for better gun control ever since was on San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but the opposition is extreme.
4 p.m. Eastern, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D): "It is an epidemic that we face, an epidemic of gun violence." Sought action after Newtown. Tipping point because we now know that crimes will rise in number and severity unless we act. "We have become much better at stopping terrorists from carrying bombs onto planes." But now military-style assault weapons have become weapons of choice. Have to take fight to ISIS but also strengthen security at home. Feinstein bill "might well have prevented the shooter in Orlando from buying a gun." Alternative bill by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is unworkable. Would require government to prove probable cause. Makes it more difficult to stop someone from buying a gun than to arrest him. Adds nothing to the tools law enforcement already has. It is "a sheep in wolf's clothing." "None of this is to say that due process is deemed unimportant." And "no fly, no gun" is effective only if there is a list, compiled from background checks. "Americans and the people of Connecticut have shown us that we must act." Sen. Chuck Grassley's alternative proposal on background checks would actually allow many more people to buy guns.
3:43 p.m. Eastern, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R): "Our hearts were broken" by Orlando massacre. "It was an attack on our LGBT community in a place where people come together to enjoy themselves." Says have to take the fight to ISIS, which continues to plan and inspire terrorist attacks. "We have to defeat radical Islamist terrorists and we have to destroy ISIS." Omar Mateen had been on watch list but was taken off — have to close gaps in intelligence. "Gun control won't stop terrorism, but I do think we can all agree that we don't want terrorists purchasing firearms. ... If you're too dangerous to board a commercial plane, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun." But instead of having competing proposals that failed before, should come together to find something all can agree on across party lines. She, however, will be voting today in favor of both bills to advance the discussion. "I will be continuing to push to get a result." But she critiques Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "no fly, no buy" bill because it requires the government only to have a reasonable suspicion of terrorism. Need to make sure that due process rights are protected.
3:35 p.m. Eastern, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D): "I wanted to bring back the ban on assault weapons, because an assault weapon is nothing more than a weapon of war." But knew they couldn't pass that. "We had to have a filibuster to get a vote!" on watch list bill and background checks. "But this is a fantastic start and I salute those who led the filibuster." Discusses scrutiny to board an airplane, even having her tube of lipstick inspected. If on terrorist watch list, "you can't get on an airplane but you can buy an AR-15." Forty percent of gun sales without background checks today. "Background checks do work." Studies have shown they decrease domestic violence. After Newtown, Conn., school shooting, 20 children and six adults killed, hard to believe we didn't do anything.
3:30 p.m. Eastern, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy(D): "I agree that we must act to prevent the next Orlando." Whether victims are "members of the LGBT community, an African-American church, first-graders — first-graders! — or members of the mililitary," must take action.