Senate set for showdown on guns next week after Democrats' 'filibuster'

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut filibustered for nearly 15 hours to push gun control legislation. Hey says Republican leaders committed to votes on expanded background checks and a ban of gun sales to suspected terrorists. (June 16) AP
WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans unveiled a batch of gun bills they will bring to the floor next week for votes, a day after Democrats held a marathon filibuster to demand action on gun control.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell agreed to schedule votes on Democrat-sponsored legislation that would ban gun sales to suspected terrorists and expand background checks for gun buyers. But he also proffered competing legislation sponsored by Republicans.
“We don’t need more campaign talk-a-thons like we witnessed yesterday preventing us from actually voting,” he said Thursday. “We need serious solutions and hard work. After all, that’s what our constituents sent us here to do. We may have gotten held back by a day, but now we’re able to keep moving forward to set up votes on both sides just as we always expected.”
Among the Republican legislative proposals is a measure offered by Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would allow federal law enforcement officials to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for three days and then halt the sale, but only after proving probable cause before a judge. The other measure calls for research on the causes of mass shootings and increases funding for the background check system, although it does not expand the types of gun sales that require them.
Democrats have been pushing for that expansion and said Thursday that the Cornyn legislation is essentially meaningless. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said three days is an unrealistic time frame for authorities to conduct investigations, and if they had enough evidence to prove probable cause that prospective buyers are engaged in terrorism, they likely would have been arrested already.
“It’s a fake, it’s a way for them to say they’re doing something when they’re doing nothing,” Schumer, said at a news conference with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who led the 15-hour Democratic filibuster Wednesday.
“My legs are a little bit rubbery, but my heart is strong this morning, because I know that we made a difference yesterday,” Murphy said Thursday.
The Democrat's proposed legislation would include a measure sponsored by Murphy requiring background checks for nearly every firearm sale. The other measure would allow the attorney general to ban gun sales to suspected terrorists, including those on watch lists, if there is “reasonable suspicion” the buyer is engaged in terrorist activity. It allows individuals who believe they have wrongly been denied the right to buy guns to appeal to the Department of Justice.
Republicans say that’s a deal-breaker.
“To say that anybody can be denied their Constitutional rights without due process of law, and without the government coming forward and establishing probable cause, that’s simply un-American,” Cornyn said Thursday.
The chances of passage for either sides’ measures are unclear. Each requires 60 votes to proceed, and the current party split is 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats and Independents who caucus with them. If each side just votes for its own bills, none will reach the threshold.
That's what happened when the last effort to modify gun laws failed in December after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.
But Senate Democrats are hoping sentiment has shifted in their direction since the shooting at Pulse nightclub Sunday in Orlando killed 49 people and injured 53 others.
The National Rifle Association tweeted out an “urgent action alert” while Democrats were holding onto the Senate floor Wednesday night asking supporters to contact their members of Congress. The group supports Cornyn’s legislation but not the Democrats' measure.
“What’s obvious is that many who want to destroy our firearm freedoms are using the terrorist attack in Orlando to push their anti-gun agenda,” the NRA Institute for Legislative Action posted on its website. “We can’t let them succeed in this depraved attempt to politicize a tragedy so they can destroy our freedoms.”

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