Senate rejects GOP gun control alternative on 52-48 vote

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the GOP amendment a “weak and counter productive alternative” that didn’t go through regular order in the committee and "undermines law enforcement."

Red-state Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Joe Donnelley (Ind.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) supported the GOP amendment, but it still didn't overcome the 60-vote threshold.

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Some GOP senators have said the Senate bill goes too far and infringes on the rights of gun-owners.

“The government should not punish or harass law-abiding citizens in the exercise of their Second Amendment rights,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday morning.

Sens. Grassley, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) alternative would have increased resources to prosecute violators of gun laws, criminalized straw purchasing and trafficking, increased school safety funding, and would have allowed interstate sale of firearms and transportation of firearms. 

“In my view the approach of the federal government to violent crime should be very simple, it should be focused on stopping violent criminals,” Cruz said ahead of the vote. “[S. 649] doesn’t target violent criminals, it targets law abiding citizens.”

Their bill also would have created a task force, funded through an Asset Forfeiture Fund, to prosecute those who fail criminal background checks.

Graham said that out of 80,000 people who failed the background check last year, the Department of Justice only prosecuted 44. He said DOJ should at least go after criminals “dumb enough” to try to get a gun.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on nine amendments Wednesday, all of which were subject to a 60-vote threshold. More amendment agreements are possible later this week or next.