Senate stalemate over gun control reflects divided America

Four gun control measures are expected to fail today, as the US Senate is expected to vote along party lines. 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut (c.) calls for gun control legislation in the wake of the mass shooting in an Orlando, Fla., LGBT nightclub, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Thursday. From left are, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D) of Wisconsin, the Rev. Sharon Risher, Sen. Cory Booker, (D) of New Jersey, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D) of California, Senator Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D) of Connecticut, and Sen. Ed Markey (D) of Massachusetts.

Four days after the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, Sen. Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut led a nearly 15-hour filibuster to demand new gun legislation. Although Senator Murphy’s filibuster brought about gun control votes Democrats have long sought, his efforts, in some way, will be in vain Monday night. 

All four gun control measures the Senate scheduled for a vote on Monday – two by Democrats and two by Republicans – are expected to fail, as Democrats say the Republican amendments don’t go far enough, and Republicans are under pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an election year.

Murphy indicated Sunday on ABC’s "This Week" that he didn’t expect any reforms to pass, instead spotlighting how the 40 senators who joined him in the filibuster reflect a desire among Americans to reform gun control.

"It wasn't just that 40 senators came to the floor, and supported my effort to get these votes, but there were millions of people all across the country who rose up and who joined our effort," said Murphy.

Yet, the divided Senate reflects an increasingly divided country in the wake of the Orlando attack, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor’s Patrik Johsson, Jessica Mendoza, and Josh Kenworthy in interviews from Orlando, Boston, and Los Angeles:

Americans’ increasing tendency to make every tragedy and crisis a justification for their own worldviews has fractured a sense of common purpose and community.

In this increasingly fragmented culture, the responses to the Orlando tragedy, rather than a portrait of a people unified in the wake of a tragedy, presents a mosaic of frustration and resignation, with a kernel of hope that maybe this time, somehow, things might be different.

This split is evident in the responses of Sen. Cory Booker (D) of New Jersey and the NRA. 

Mr. Booker said Thursday the Orlando shooting increased the urgency of further gun control.

"We can't just wait, we have to make something happen," said Mr. Booker, at a news conference where Democrats joined family members of people killed in recent mass shootings. "These are people bound by brutality, and their numbers are growing."

The NRA, in comparison, said the shooting underlined that Americans should be able to arm themselves for protection.

"Laws didn't stop them in Boston. Laws didn't stop them in San Bernardino, where you had every type of gun control law that you could have. And they didn't stop them in Paris, where people can't even own guns," Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the NRA, told CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday.

In the Senate Tuesday, Republicans are expected to block two Democratic amendments because, they say, they threaten the constitutional rights of gun owners. An amendment by Murphy would require background checks for all gun sales, and improve information in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. An amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California would enable the government to bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists, an amendment similar to the one she proposed in December, following the San Bernardino attack.

Democrats are expected to block two Republican amendments because, they say, they don't do enough to restrict gun sales. An amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas would allow the government to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for 72 hours, but would require prosecutors show the courts probable cause to block the sale permanently. The NRA backs the legislation. The other amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa would increase funds for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and ensure records are uploaded into the system. It would also clarify language that disqualifies someone with mental health issues from buying a gun.  

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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