A Senator Just Staged a Historic Filibuster for These 2 Gun Reform Proposals
For most of the day yesterday and through the early hours of this morning, Senator Chris Murphy and many of his Senate colleagues staged a dramatic filibuster--the 9th longest filibuster in US history.
Murphy--and nearly half of the Senate--spent nearly 15 hours straight standing on the Senate floor talking about one issue: gun violence.
This filibuster was a direct result of the mass shooting in Orlando, where 49 people in the LGBTQ community were killed in a nightclub. It was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
#Orlando is likely a story of a hate crime, an ISIS recruit, and an assault weapon. Thoughtful policy flows from all three, not just one.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2016
The filibuster, like the attack itself, sparked intense emotional and heated discussion about gun rights, gun violence, and gun control in the US from all sides.
In fact, the filibuster itself was intensely emotional.
You GO Cory Booker! https://t.co/L6eGKyxmT0
— CMHinsley (@hinslgretl) June 16, 2016
— Ted Mann (@TMannWSJ) June 16, 2016
Gun rights are guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
— Chris Cataldo (@CataldoCongress) June 16, 2016
But given the horrifying frequency of mass shootings and of gun-related deaths overall in America, there are frustrated and passionate screams for regulation and change.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 16, 2016
So let's cut through the noise, and break down what is happening with a clear head.
What do the filibustering senators want?
Democratic senators have two specific proposals:
1. Closing the so-called "terror gap." That means not letting people on the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list get a gun license.
2. Enacting universal background checks. If you buy a gun at a licensed shop, you have to go through a background check, but you can buy guns online or at gun shows or privately without being screened.
Murphy and his supporters want these measures to be debated and voted on. Again. Both proposals have been introduced before, and both have been voted down.
I thought, could I live w myself if the Senate did nothing - again? Could I look myself in the mirror if I didn't take a stand? #filbuster
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 16, 2016
They would also like to see limits on assault weapons, which were banned for about 20 years but aren't banned any longer. (They're often the weapon of choice for mass shooters.) But that's not on the table just yet.
What is the "terror gap"?
We're talking about people on the no-fly list and the terrorism watch list.
The "terror gap" proposal was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who reintroduced the bill to prohibit suspected terrorists on the no-fly list from buying guns.
Under current federal law people on terror watch lists can legally buy guns – this is called the Terror Gap
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 12, 2016
Kim's right. The terror gap refers to the loophole in US laws allowing the sale of guns to suspected terrorists. Between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 suspects were able to legally purchase guns because of this loophole.
This is haunting... President Obama responding to a Pro-Gun Advocate just last week... wow. pic.twitter.com/bNHce8ZuHb
— RickyFTW (@rickyftw) June 12, 2016
The terrorist watch list is a database of close to two million people collected by the FBI. From that database, the TSA forms the no-fly list, which bars suspected terrorists from boarding a plane.
What is the opposition to closing the terror gap?
The NRA, a powerful gun-rights lobbying group, is actually against the sale of guns to terrorists:
The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing.
— Everytown (@Everytown) June 16, 2016
But what the NRA and others are concerned about is due process--making sure people's rights are protected. In the US, you can't be deprived of your life, liberty, or property without appropriate legal actions. So here's the argument: Suspected terrorists who are on the watch list and the no-fly list could be totally innocent, so they shouldn't be deprived of their rights.
Yes and I'm asking for due process. https://t.co/Sl6VxOjliA
— Julie Borowski (@JulieBorowski) June 16, 2016
Some also don't believe the federal government should be able to decide who is on the no-fly list in the first place. Often people are put on the list without warning, and why a person is put on the list can be hazy or even the result of a clerical error.
A person is not a "terrorist" by virtue of appearing on one of the Government's secret lists. https://t.co/XQ8o8HDYjo
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) June 16, 2016
We *need* background checks. But to make that about 'closing the terror gap' is a racist scare tactic with consequences for innocent people.
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) June 16, 2016
What happened last time lawmakers tried to close the terror gap?
A bill to close the terror gap was introduced in earlier in December, but it was voted down based on the argument that the government often mistakenly puts people on the list and that people who are on the list should have the chance to litigate their way off and be able to buy guns when they are taken off the list. (Note: The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was on the terrorist watch list, but he was taken off before he bought the guns he used in the massacre. He bought them legally.)
What does a "universal background check" mean?
A universal background check would mean requiring that everyone who buys a gun be screened.
Right now, when you go to a gun store to buy a gun they are required to check your background first. They check things like your background, drug use, and criminal history. But that isn't the case for private sales, at gun shows and online and privately. This is often referred to as the gun show loophole.
Instituting universal background checks is being proposed (again) by Senators Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Just universal background checks would be a major step forward. An enormous leap for the whole nation. Would absolutely save lives.
— Joe Hill (@joe_hill) June 16, 2016
President Obama has already pushed this year to close this loophole, and introduced his own plan to stop gun violence.
— Nightline (@Nightline) January 5, 2016
What is the opposition to universal background checks?
The opposition comes from a fear that adding universal backgrounds will be a road block to gun sales and will infringe on law-abiding people's rights.
Many argue that screenings are pointless barriers both for people following the law and for criminals who will just find a way to get the guns they want illegally.
Oh, @SenateDems are filibustering for gun control.
Not to take action against ISIS, but against law abiding U.S. citizens' rights.
— Michelle Ray (@GaltsGirl) June 15, 2016
Senators who voted against universal background checks received 11x as much money from gun rights groups. https://t.co/9j4cgIzFmr
— Common Cause (@CommonCause) June 16, 2016
What happened last time lawmakers tried to enact universal background checks?
So, what happens next?
The historic filibuster didn't create any new laws or policies, but it succeeded in getting the entire Senate to vote on these two proposals. And getting a ton of attention, too.
— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) June 16, 2016
Republicans will also likely introduce their own measures.
Senator Murphy, Senator Schumer, and others who want to see more gun control intend to do all they can to #MakeItStop.
15 hrs on the floor. 2 hrs of sleep. And I'm back on my (tired) feet, ready to keep pressing Congress to end its silence on gun violence.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 16, 2016
Text CALL to 877-877 to demand a senate vote this week on closing the terror gap and background checks!
— Sarah Thyre (@SarahThyre) June 16, 2016
If you care about gun violence and/or gun rights, here are some ways you can take action right now:
Text "enough" to 877-877 to tell Congress you have had enough >>
Allison is originally from Fresno, California, but made her way to the beautiful Central Coast, where she is a student at UC Santa Cruz, earning a degree in both history and politics, working as a reporter for City on a Hill Press, and guzzling gallons of coffee. She is a lover of television and all things Amy Poehler. Follow her embarrassing attempts at jokes on Twitter @alleyrenee16.