In Wake of San Bernardino Shooting, Manchin-Toomey Gun-Control Bill Fails Again

The latest tragedy didn’t do much to change the calculus in the Senate.

An investigator on Thursday looks at a black SUV that was involved in a police shootout with suspects in San Bernardino, California Wednesday.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
Dec. 3, 2015, 5:28 p.m.

Just one day after shoot­ers in San Bern­ardino, Cali­for­nia killed 14 people and in­jured 17 more, the Sen­ate again voted down a bi­par­tis­an gun-con­trol bill.

The gun-con­trol le­gis­la­tion, ini­tially craf­ted by Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Demo­crat­ic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia in the wake of the New­town, Con­necti­c­ut ele­ment­ary school shoot­ings in 2012, failed on a 48-50 vote. The bill would re­quire back­ground checks for all gun sales in­clud­ing at gun shows and on­line, though not for the trans­fer of guns between friends and fam­ily mem­bers.

Four Re­pub­lic­ans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona, and Toomey him­self—voted in fa­vor of the meas­ure. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who also op­posed the bill in 2013, was the only Demo­crat to op­pose the amend­ment. All of the votes on Thursday were identic­al to those cast in 2013. Heitkamp is the only Demo­crat to vote against the ori­gin­al bill who re­mains in Con­gress, and all four Re­pub­lic­an sup­port­ers also backed the le­gis­la­tion two years ago.

Demo­crats tried to at­tach the bill as an amend­ment to Re­pub­lic­ans’ re­con­cili­ation bill, which would over­turn key as­pects of the Af­ford­able Care Act and is ex­pec­ted to pass later Thursday. The move is part of a heightened ef­fort by Demo­crats in Con­gress to raise the is­sue of gun con­trol in the wake of re­cent tra­gedies, made slightly iron­ic by the fact that Pres­id­ent Obama in­tends to veto the fi­nal bill and that no Demo­crat is ex­pec­ted to sup­port it.

But Thursday’s vote al­lowed Demo­crats an­oth­er op­por­tun­ity to put Re­pub­lic­ans on the re­cord against the le­gis­la­tion that has be­come a ral­ly­ing cry for gun-con­trol sup­port­ers both in Con­gress and in the coun­try at large. The ini­tial Manchin-Toomey bill in 2013, which fell just six votes short of pas­sage, was a ma­jor blow to gun-con­trol sup­port­ers.

Manchin and Toomey have been work­ing to­geth­er since June to re­vive their le­gis­la­tion, fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at a church in Char­le­ston, South Car­o­lina that killed nine people. The polit­ic­al odd couple have said that they are open to re­form­ing the le­gis­la­tion—which was brought up in its ori­gin­al 2013 form on Thursday—in or­der to at­tract suf­fi­cient votes for pas­sage.

Manchin, who noted that he is him­self a “law-abid­ing gun own­er,” touted the le­gis­la­tion be­fore Thursday’s vote, call­ing it a bi­par­tis­an bill that “makes all the sense in the world” and “does not in­fringe on the rights of a per­son­al [gun] trans­ac­tion.”

“This is the most com­mon-sense [bill] sup­por­ted by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans and a ma­jor­ity of law-abid­ing gun own­ers in Amer­ica. … Please sup­port this,” Manchin said. “It’s ba­sic­ally something that’s long, long over­due.”

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, one of the Re­pub­lic­ans to op­pose the meas­ure, ar­gued that the bill “won’t pre­vent the next shoot­ing or re­duce crime or fix our men­tal-health sys­tem.” Grass­ley ad­ded be­fore the vote: “We need to also be wor­ried about pro­tect­ing [the] Second Amend­ment.”

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