Senate Democrats Beat Up and Shoot Down Gun Bill

On March 2, by a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate elected to extend for ten years the federal assault weapons ban, a Clinton-era law that sunsets later this year. The 10-year ban, which prohibits certain guns basically just because they look scary, was passed when President Clinton was backed by Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 1994.

The amendment extending the ban was just part of a Democratic effort to secretly kill the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S 1805) by loading it up with poison pill amendments. The original bill would have shielded the gun industry from some of the liberal-backed proliferating lawsuits resulting from the misuse of their products by others. As a result of this ban-extension amendment and two other anti-gun amendments (see below) that passed the Senate narrowly, gun rights supporters and opponents voted together to kill the entire bill, 90 to 8. (see below).

Although President Bush has expressed support for extending the assault weapons ban, gun-rights activists expect that it will never clear the House. Most Democrats, support extending the ban, but many at least privately oppose any bill that might benefit the gun industry by stopping frivolous lawsuits.

Underscoring the importance to Democrats of killing the lawsuit ban, presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) and former presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards (D.-N.C.), a trial lawyer, broke away from the campaign trail to cast their first Senate votes of 2004, joining the close majority that passed both amendments.

A “yes” vote was a vote to extend the Clinton-era assault weapons ban. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.

For the Assault Weapons Amendment: 53 Against the Assault Weapons Amendment: 46
REPUBLICANS FOR (8):
Chafee
DeWine
Fitzgerald
Hagel
Lugar
McCain
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS FOR (44):
Akaka
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Breaux
Byrd
Cantwell
Carper
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Edwards
Feingold
Feinstein
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Kennedy
Kerry
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lieberman
Lincoln
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson (Fla.)
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (3):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
Chambliss
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (3):
Baucus
Miller
Nelson (Neb.)

NOT VOTING: 1

REPUBLICANS (0): DEMOCRATS (1):
Johnson

Later the same day, by a vote of 53 to 46, in another Democratic move to try to stop the lawsuit-ban bill, the Senate approved another gun-control amendment to the bill that was also unpalatable to gun-rights supporters. This amendment would have required background checks on all buyers at private gun shows. Essentially, the bill would have prevented free commerce in arms between individuals, involving the government every time there is a gun changing hands, and establishing a de facto method for the government to snoop on law-abiding gun owners.

A “yes” vote was a vote to require background checks for private gun transactions. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.

For the Gun Show Amendment: 53 Against the Gun Show Amendment: 46
REPUBLICANS FOR (8):
Chafee
DeWine
Fitzgerald
Hagel
Lugar
McCain
Voinovich
Warner
DEMOCRATS FOR (44):
Akaka
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Breaux
Byrd
Cantwell
Carper
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Edwards
Feingold
Feinstein
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Kennedy
Kerry
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lieberman
Lincoln
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson (Fla.)
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (3):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
Chambliss
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (3):
Baucus
Miller
Nelson (Neb.)

NOT VOTING: 1

REPUBLICANS (0): DEMOCRATS (1):
Johnson

Days earlier, on February 26, by a vote of 70 to 27, the Senate passed yet another amendment making the underlying lawsuit-ban bill more unpalatable to gun rights advocates. This amendment requires the provision of a child safety device with the transfer of handguns in addition to providing safety standards for child safety devices.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) introduced this amendment.

“It is an amendment that will protect our children from violence, and what could be more important to us as we gather here every day than to protect our children?” she asked.

A “yes” vote was a vote to require child safety devices on guns sold in the United States. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.

For the Safety Device Amendment: 53 Against the Safety Device Amendment: 46
REPUBLICANS FOR (25):
Bennett
Brownback
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Chafee
DeWine
Domenici
Fitzgerald
Frist
Grassley
Gregg
Hagel
Hutchison
Lugar
McCain
McConnell
Murkowski
Roberts
Santorum
Smith
Snowe
Stevens
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS FOR (44):
Akaka
Baucus
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Breaux
Byrd
Cantwell
Carper
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Feingold
Feinstein
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Kennedy
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lieberman
Lincoln
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson (Fla.)
Nelson (Neb.)
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (25):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bond
Bunning
Burns
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
Chambliss
Dole
Ensign
Enzi
Graham (S.C.)
Hatch
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
Nickles
Sessions
Shelby
Specter
Sununu
Talent
Thomas

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (2):
Johnson
Miller

NOT VOTING: 3

REPUBLICANS (1): DEMOCRATS (2):
Campbell Edwards
Kerry

Entire Bill Defeated

And so despite House passage of the bill last year shielding gunmakers and dealers from liability suits by crime victims, because of the loaded amendments described above that had been added to the bill, the Senate on March 3, overwhelmingly voted against the bill 8 to 90. Even Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho), who sponsored the underlying lawsuit-ban bill, asked supporters to vote against the measure in its amended form. “I now believe it is so dramatically wounded that I would urge my colleagues to vote against it,” he said. In addition, the National Rifle Association encouraged senators to vote against the bill for similar reasons.

A “no” vote was a vote against passing the heavily-amended bill to immunize the gun industry from lawsuits. A “yes” vote was one in favor of passing it.

For the Bill: 8 Against the Bill: 90
REPUBLICANS FOR (3):
Lugar
McCain
Voinovich

DEMOCRATS FOR (5):
Breaux
Daschle
Lieberman
Lincoln
Pryor

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (48):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
Chafee
Chambliss
DeWine
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hagel
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas
Warner

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (41):
Akaka
Baucus
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Byrd
Cantwell
Carper
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Feingold
Feinstein
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Kennedy
Kerry
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Mikulski
Miller
Murray
Nelson (Fla.)
Nelson (Neb.)
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT AGAINST(1):
Jeffords

NOT VOTING: 2

REPUBLICANS (0): DEMOCRATS (2):
Edwards
Johnson


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