Concealed-weapons amendment shot down

Senate Democrats on Wednesday banded together to defeat — barely — a Republican proposal to allow concealed weapons to be carried across state lines.

Voting 58-39, the chamber beat back an amendment by Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneWeek ahead: Robocall crackdown tops FCC meeting agenda Here's how Congress can get people to live healthy lifestyles Ryan huddles with GOP factions on healthcare bill MORE (R-S.D.), a potential presidential hopeful who has taken on a growing role among Senate Republicans, that would have permitted weapons to be transferred from state to state.

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Under a previous agreement between the two parties, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

The thin margin capped a furious whipping effort by Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinGorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student Mattis on defense budget boost: 'America can afford survival' MORE (D-Ill.) and Charles SchumerCharles SchumerWith no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Gorsuch hearings: A referendum on Originalism and corporate power We must act now and pass the American Health Care Act MORE (D-N.Y.), who were seen talking closely with wavering Democrats on the floor right up until the vote.

Schumer, who led the effort to kill the amendment, issued a statement saying its defeat means "lives have been saved."

"The passage of this amendment would have done more to threaten the safety of New Yorkers than anything since the repeal of the assault-weapons ban," Schumer said. "If this had passed, it would have created havoc for law enforcement and endangered the safety of millions of New Yorkers. We will remain vigilant to prevent any legislation like this from passing in the future.”

As he vowed on Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.), a longtime gun-rights supporter, voted for the amendment. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), whose reelection campaign is likely to be dominated by gun-control issues, voted against the amendment.

Nineteen other Democrats crossed over to support the amendment: Max BaucusMax BaucusGOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination MORE of Montana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE of Alaska, Michael BennetMichael BennetRNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Colorado Dem at the center of Gorsuch confirmation fight Gorsuch sails on day one, but real test is Tuesday MORE of Colorado, Bob CaseyBob CaseySanders to oppose Gorsuch's nomination Senate Dem facing 2018 reelection to oppose Gorsuch RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight MORE Jr. of Pennsylvania, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE of North Carolina, Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE of South Dakota, Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE of Arkansas, Jon TesterJon TesterOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief urges Congress to approve budget boost | Senate fight over NATO addition Defense chief after Trump tweet: NATO doesn't track 'past money owed' Eye on 2018: Five special elections worth watching MORE of Montana, Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Tech: FCC chief says media isn't 'the enemy of the people' | Fallout from Comey's testimony | Google apologizes for ads near extremist content | US preps electronics ban on some flights FCC head: The media is not the 'enemy of the people' Overnight Tech: Dems grill FCC chair | Senators move to crack down on robocalls | House bill would roll back internet privacy rule MORE of New Mexico, Mark UdallMark UdallElection autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics MORE of Colorado and Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: House Intel chair says surveillance collected on Trump transition team Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info Dem senator wants Manafort to testify before Intelligence Committee MORE and Jim Webb of Virginia.

Two Republicans crossed over to vote against the amendment: Richard Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio.

Lugar's office issued a statement saying his vote represents his belief that "state and local officials should be afforded the ability to determine proper concealed-carry gun laws and regulations that protect the safety of their communities. This is consistent with his views since he was mayor of Indianapolis."

"Sen. Voinovich believes concealed carry is a state issue and states are already working among themselves to expand recognition of concealed carry permit holders," the Ohio senator's office said in a statement. "For example, Ohio has had a conceal carry law since 2004 and has reciprocity with up to 25 other states. Because conceal carry rights are already protected at the state level, Sen. Voinovich sees no need for federal legislation at this time."

Missing the vote were Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiAfter 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? DC restaurant owners sue Trump hotel over unfair competition: report Meet the Trump pick who could lead Russia probe MORE (D-Md.), who is undergoing ankle surgery, Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who only returned to the Senate on Tuesday after a long hospitalization, and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is battling brain cancer.

The bill would have allowed citizens with a concealed-weapons permit in one state to transfer that permit to other states. Thune described it repeatedly as a “common-sense” idea and said that permit-holders would still have to follow all laws of all states concerning firearms.

Thune was opposed on the Senate floor by Durbin, whose state would not have been affected. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states that do not issue or allow concealed-weapons permits.

The vote was a rare defeat for the National Rifle Association, which was “scoring” the amendment as a key vote in its ratings of legislators. In a letter distributed to Congress on Tuesday, the NRA described the amendment as a way to push back against an increasingly hostile atmosphere for gun owners among state and local governments.

“It is now time for Congress to acknowledge these changes in states law [sic] and recognize that the right to self-defense does not end at state lines,” the NRA wrote. “The Thune-Vitter amendment represents a giant step forward in the protection of our basic right to self-defense.”

It was also a rare defeat for Thune, who this summer became GOP Policy chairman — the fourth-ranking position in Senate Republican leadership — after Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) resignation from the post. Thune has also been an emerging voice on the Employee Free Choice Act and has started a website opposing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

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One less-noticed aspect of Wednesday's vote: The influence of a coalition of U.S. mayors who worked hard against the amendment. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lobbied senators far more intensely than other recent gun votes in the Senate. Lindsay Ellenbogen, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said the group "got out there and got our voice heard."

"This was an amendment that had a future, and it would been a problem," Ellenbogen said. "We had to stop it. This is a real win for the nation's mayors. I would say we helped stem the tide."

Bloomberg's group paid for advertising, sent letters and made a flurry of calls, especially targeting Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Voinovich, both of whom voted against the bill. The coalition even funded an ad in Voinovich's hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that ran Wednesday morning.

Bloomberg called the amendment "an intrusive and destructive bill" whose defeat is "a major victory for the right of states to set their own public safety laws and for the bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns."

"The vast majority of states have set minimum requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed gun, and Congress should respect those laws instead of trying to usurp them," he said. "This victory allows our cities to continue our effective strategies for driving down crime and keeping illegal guns off our streets.”

The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, the country's foremost gun-control group, issued a statement praising the vote. Campaign President Paul Helmke called Thune's amendment "a dangerous proposal that would have undermined public safety and the safety of our police officers," and credited Durbin, Schumer, Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHuman rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll Schumer a no on Gorsuch, will urge Dems to oppose MORE (D-Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) for its defeat.

"This proposal would have let people from states with the weakest gun laws in the nation carry hidden, loaded weapons in states with much stronger gun law," Helmke said. "It was a profoundly bad idea. I am hopeful that our Congress will now start addressing proactive measures to reduce gun violence in this country by doing things like requiring background checks for all gun sales, particularly at gun shows.  We make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons in America."

The NRA took a sharply different strategy with its post-mortem press release, simply noting that a bipartisan majority of the Senate approved the amendment and singling out Thune, David VitterDavid VitterFormer GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World Mercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others MORE (R-La.) and Webb for supporting it.
 
“While we are disappointed that the 60 vote procedural hurdle was not met, the vote shows that a bipartisan majority agrees with the NRA,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox. “The efforts of these senators were not in vain, as the NRA will continue to work tirelessly to ensure this important legislation finds the right avenue to come before Congress once again.”

This story was updated at 2:00 p.m.