Senate to vote on 4 gun control measures after massacre
None of proposals expected to get 60 votes required to move ahead
A week and a day after a gunman opened fire in an Orlando nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring 53 more, lawmakers are expected to vote on amendments that would improve or expand background checks and make it harder for suspected terrorists to purchase guns.
None is expected to get the 60 votes required for further action.
Police killed the nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, a man who had been investigated by the FBI before.
FBI agents said Mateen was on the FBI terrorist watch list for more than two years, and was questioned three times, but they never found evidence to prosecute him.
That meant he was legally able to buy the guns he used in the attack.
Some lawmakers say there were red flags, and if the laws were better, he could have been stopped.
After a 15-hour filibuster last week, the Senate will vote Monday on four gun policy proposals to try to keep that from happening again.
Democrats are expected to block two Republican amendments, arguing that they fall short in controlling the sales of guns. Republicans are expected to block two Democratic amendments, contending that they threaten the constitutional rights of gun owners.
“I think that's kind of the political atmosphere we've been in for a long time -- that it doesn't matter, these lives don't matter. The 49 lives simply don't matter enough to people on Capitol Hill to really make a change,” shooting survivor Brandon Wolf said. “That's why it's up to us to make a change. It's up to us to be the activists for the change that we want to see.”
At least some lawmakers are listening to Wolf's strong message.
“Mr. President, this tragedy in my state, in the town in which I live, could have been prevented,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said.
Nelson said enough is enough. He’s proposed a plan to keep Americans safe from future attacks, and Monday he'll vote on similar measures from four other senators.
Nelson reintroduced his measure to ensure that the FBI is notified if any individual who is, or has been, investigated for possible ties to terrorism attempts to purchase a firearm as a separate stand-alone amendment on Monday, giving Senate leadership the option to call it up separately for a vote if all four of the amendments voted on Monday fail.
Details on the amendments:
— Amendment by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut that would require background checks for all gun sales and improve information in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
— Amendment by Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would boost funds for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and ensure that the correct records are uploaded into the system in a timely manner. Would also clarify language surrounding mental health issues that would disqualify someone from buying a gun.
— Amendment by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists. Feinstein offered a similar amendment in December, a day after an extremist couple killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, but the Republican-run Senate rejected the proposal on a near party-line vote.
The Justice Department has endorsed the legislation, saying it gives the department "an important additional tool to prevent the sale of guns to suspected terrorists by licensed firearms dealers while ensuring protection of the department's operational and investigative sensitivities."
— Amendment by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas that 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 National Rifle Association backs the legislation, which the Senate also rejected in December.
The NRA said in a statement that "if an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist. At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed."
Nelson's office said he will likely vote No on the amendments from Grassley and Cornyn, and yes on the amendments from Murphy and Feinstein.
"We are beginning to see people take this much more seriously than they have in the past," said Chryl Anderson with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "Today we are going to find out where our elected leaders are on the issue of gun safety."
But not everyone’s in favor of the plans.
“If someone has a specific proposal that will keep guns out of bad guys’ hands, we are willing to listen,” said Florida Carry attorney Eric Friday.
Friday said he believes the proposals are missing the mark.
“The problem is gun-free zones,” Friday said. “The problem is denying people the ability to protect themselves and giving terrorists and criminals soft targets where they can act with impunity because nobody is there to defend themselves.”
A spokeswoman for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said she’ll be sending his comments on the vote later.
Experts say even if the amendments don't pass Monday, they open the door for more conversations about what to do in the wake of such a terrible tragedy.