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Senate Democrats Defeat the Thune Gun-Rights Amendment

July 22, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

For the first time this session, Senate Democrats have successfully filibustered a Republican amendment to loosen federal gun laws. The Senate today voted 58-39 on Sen. John Thune’s [R, SD] amendment to allow people who are legally allowed to carry concealed weapons in their home state to carry their weapons in any of the 48 states that have some form of concealed carry law. SIxty votes were needed for the amendment to pass.

The Associated Press called today’s vote “a rare win for gun control advocates.”

Twice already this session of Congress, the Democratically-controlled Senate voted in favor of Republican gun-rights amendments. In February, the Senate voted 62-36 to allow people to carry guns in Washington D.C. and in May they voted 67-29 to allow people to bring guns into national parks. But the Thune amendment is significantly broader than those amendments, and some Democrats who voted for the other pro-gun amendments were unwilling to vote in favor of Thune’s. Paul Kane at the Washington Post says the amendment is “considered the most far reaching federal effort ever proposed to expand laws to allow weapons ownership.”

The amendment was proposed as an add-on to the must-pass FY10 Department of Defense Authorizations Act (S. 1390).

Opponents of the amendment argued that it would let gun owners from states with more liberal gun laws, like Vermont or Florida, carry their guns into states that require more training and where it’s much harder for a person to get a gun, like Massachusetts and New Jersey. “The passage of this amendment would have done more to threaten the safety of New Yorkers than anything since the repeal of the assault-weapons ban,” Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] said after the vote. "If this had passed, it would have created havoc for law enforcement and endangered the safety of millions of New Yorkers. We will remain vigilant to prevent any legislation like this from passing in the future.”

Two Republicans crossed party lines to vote with Democrats against the amendment. If both had voted with the rest of their party, the amendment would have passed. They are:

Sen. Richard Lugar [R, IN]
Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH]

Twenty Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for the amendment. They are:

Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT]
Sen. Evan Bayh [D, IN]
Sen. Mark Begich [D, AK]
Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO]
Sen. Robert Casey [D, PA]
Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND]
Sen. Byron Dorgan [D, ND]
Sen. Russell Feingold [D, WI]
Sen. Kay Hagan [D, NC]
Sen. Tim Johnson [D, SD]
Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA]
Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR]
Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE]
Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR]
Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV]
Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT]
Sen. Mark Udall [D, CO]
Sen. Tom Udall [D, NM]
Sen. Mark Warner [D, VA]
Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA]

Noting Democratic Majority Leader Reid’s “yes” vote, Glenn Thrush notes that “this is also a victory of sorts for Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was able to make a pro-gun vote to please the 2010 voters in Nevada without really facing any consequences in terms of actual policy.”

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