A proposal to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales failed in the Senate Wednesday afternoon after it did not garner the votes needed to overcome a possible filibuster.
The measure fell in a vote of 54-46.
Five Democrats, Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, voted against background checks. Four Republicans, Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Mark Kirk of Illinois supported it.
Signs of possible failure were visible earlier this week but became clearer this morning when sponsors admitted they were lacking enough votes.
President Barack Obama was expected to deliver a statement around 5:30 p.m. today. In the meantime, several Democratic senators will join family members of the victims of gun violence for a 5 p.m. press conference on Capitol Hill.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., released their proposal last week. The bipartisan measure provided a much-needed boost to the Senate Democrats’ main gun control bill. It was cast off by the largest gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, but embraced by another major gun rights group, Citizens' Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which had a hand in drafting the proposal.
Shortly after the bill’s defeat, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, reiterated that the amendment was “misguided” and stressed it would have criminalized certain private transfers.
“As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” the statement read. “The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.”
The main bill from Reid proposes background check expansion, increased funding for school safety, and tougher penalties for gun traffickers and straw purchasers.
In an effort to persuade his colleagues to vote in favor of the bill, Manchin took to the Senate floor earlier today to dispel any misinformation surrounding the legislation. He accused the NRA of lying by saying the proposed background checks bill would criminalize private transfers of firearms.
“We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory background checks for every gun show,” Manchin said. “It’s so everybody plays by the same set of rules.”
The bill would have expanded background checks to close the loopholes at gun shows and during online sales while exempting private gun transfers.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, spoke against the Manchin-Toomey amendment, urging his colleagues to oppose a “dangerous and misguided approach.”
Earlier Wednesday, Grassley and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced alternative amendments to pending gun legislation. The Senate also rejected Grassley’s alternative gun control bill, 52-48. That particular proposal sought to preserve Second Amendment rights, they said, and add fixes to current laws.