US Senate blocks universal background checks

April 18th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The US Senate has blocked bipartisan legislation aimed at tightening restrictions on the sale of firearms, a huge defeat for an angry President Barack Obama.

This morning’s attempt to ban assault-style rifles went down, too, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines faced the same fate in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The background check measure commanded a majority of senators, 54-46, but that was well short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Forty-one Republicans and five Democrats sided together to scuttle the plan.

Speaking to the nation after the vote Obama said a minority the senators decided “it wasn’t worth it” to protect the nation’s children.

“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said.”There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics,” he said, flanked by relatives of the victims of recent mass shootings, some of whom wept during the president’s comments.

Universal background checks are, for me, a non-brainer. 90% of Americans support them. You want to make sure sales are not to convicted criminals, and the seriously mentally unwell. It is disappointing that even that modest proposal couldn’t get past the Senate.

The proposed bans on assault-style rifles and high-capacity ammo were never going to pass, and are far more debatable propositions.  But it is very hard to argue against universal background checks for gun sales.

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20 Responses to “US Senate blocks universal background checks”

  1. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    And those checks would not have prevented Sandy hook……

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  2. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    I think the most coherent argument I’ve heard is that universal background checks are:
    a) a step towards a gun owners register, which in turn is
    b) a step towards taking guns off everyone, and that in general it is
    c) an impost of the government on people going about their lawful business, and further
    d) will have no impact on the actual crazies, and make buying a gun harder for the law abiding.

    I’m not saying I agree with all that, but I have precisely zero belief that this law would make any difference in the US context to gun deaths. The guy who committed that massacre used his mother’s guns. Are we saying that a background check would have prevented his mother having guns? I doubt it very much.

    In short, this isn’t a solution to the problem that the US has. The problem that the US has is that they have an enormous number of guns, legal and illegal, in circulation, and therefore crazies have access to weapons that cause a lot more damage than someone armed with a knife could. But the only way to stop that would be to take guns off all citizens, and that’s:
    a) not possible, and
    b) exactly what the NRA are claiming would happen if the US heads down this path.

    I think Norway has very restrictive gun laws. They didn’t really stop the crazy there. I doubt it would stop the crazies in the USA either.

    In short, if you follow the logic that the current proposition won’t achieve anything, and that therefore it’s either:
    a) a stalking horse for something else, or
    b) a first step to far more restrictive laws

    That’s actually sort of a sensible logic chain.

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  3. Lance (2,309 comments) says:

    @PaulL
    The Norway massacre was a single person. A very rare event in Norway’s history.

    Good grief there is some fuckwit running amok with guns seemingly ever other day in the US.

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  4. nasska (9,501 comments) says:

    The US Senate quite rightly saw through Obama’s proposal for what it was.

    The first step to disarming the citizenry.

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  5. JC (838 comments) says:

    ”There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics,” he said, **flanked by relatives of the victims of recent mass shootings, some of whom wept during the president’s comments.**”

    And right there is why the Bill failed. Obama has showboated this thing all the way through, used the Newtown victims like a bloody shirt over a crime thats rarer than death by lightning and concentrated laser like on the rarest form of gun murder whilst ignoring the other 95% overwhelmingly committed by his voter base.

    The majority of Americans know what he’s doing and why he’s doing it and it has nothing to do with lessening gun violence.

    JC

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  6. hj (5,677 comments) says:

    The Citizenry maintain the right to have a shoot-up in response to policy they don’t agree with (espetially if it affectd profits).

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  7. cha (3,531 comments) says:

    But it is very hard to argue against universal background checks for gun sales.

    The NRA supported legislation but the NRA gun industry has a history of nobling legislation.

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  8. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    **flanked by relatives of the victims of recent mass shootings, some of whom wept during the president’s comments.**

    The really sad irony about this, is that the political showboating and media attention around it, makes the next copycat shooting spree even more likely…

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  9. Feanor (39 comments) says:

    How did this site become such a haven for American-style right wing kooks?

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  10. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    But it is very hard to argue against universal background checks for gun sales

    Sure, just as long as the US military are subject to the same criteria. Fit & proper, no history of violence, the usual things, nothing fancy.

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  11. F E Smith (3,273 comments) says:

    The bill was badly written and should not have been passed. The Volokh Conspiracy had a good post on it the other day, pointing out the major issues with the bill. Suffice to say that the law of unintended consequences would have had a field day with it.

    Moreover, as The Scorned rightly pointed out, had the bill been law a year ago it would not have prevented the Sandy Hook shootings. The fact is that criminals generally commit crimes with guns that are either stolen, smuggled from Mexico, or purchased by a ‘clean’ purchaser.

    The common denominator for many of these mass shootings is that the shooter often has severe mental health issues, but being able to check mental health in a background check is extremely difficult in the USA, if not impossible, due to privacy laws.

    Morons who say that banning assault style weapons is the solution just prove that they don’t know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, there is a lot of people like that both in the USA and in NZ.

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  12. lazza (296 comments) says:

    I very much doubt that in say 50 years time, US apologists for anti-gun controls will be able to say of today’s “shameful” political decision … “I told you so, when back in 2013 we turned down background tests we preserved our citizens rights thereby preventing Big Government from putting down the people’s call to arms”.

    Huh? So what is their argument again?

    What a mad mad society!

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  13. Rightandleft (574 comments) says:

    Obama himself admitted these measures would not have prevented the Sandy Hook Massacre. Not only that, the Virginia Tech massacre was committed by a man who legally obtained normal handguns with regular capacity ammo. Even if passed this legislation would not have brought in background checks for private gun sales, only closed the loophole for gun shows. I have no problem with a registry but I can understand why some oppose it. I used to live in Washington DC, a city with a total handgun ban and nearly 300 murders a year nonetheless. Laws like this only restrict the rights of the law-abiding citizens, not the criminals and crazies.

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  14. Grant Michael McKenna (1,152 comments) says:

    Why is the proposed legislation described as being “bipartisan” without pointing out that so too was the opposition which killed it?
    The Volokh Conspiracy blog article that F.E. Smith pointed to is http://www.volokh.com/2013/04/15/the-pro-gun-provisions-of-manchin-toomey-are-actually-a-bonanza-of-gun-control/

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  15. Don the Kiwi (1,318 comments) says:

    David. The thing is, they already have stringent background checks, but they are not enforced. In Chicago, Obama’s power base, they have the greatest number of gun killings than any other city in the US – yet they have the most restrictive gun laws.
    Last year, in Chicago alone, there were 7,000 weapons purchased by those whose background checks did not stack up – yet, the police investigated only 4 of them – yes, that’s right only FOUR – not 40, 400 or 4000 – only FOUR.

    The Americans are saying, lets enforce the laws we have before adding to the list of laws that won’t be enforced.

    Good on the Yanks for preventing an idiot like Obama from destroying their freedoms. He is exactly the type of guy who would become a Marxist dictator.

    Of course, the liberals on this blog accuse the yanks of being crazy – but the conservative Americans have more common sense in their little finger than all the accumulated liberals on this site, and in their own country.

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  16. Mark (496 comments) says:

    Universal background checks will not stop seriously mentally unwell get guns.

    In the US is a breach of their privacy and is the reason why the Virigna Tech gunman passed two FBI background checks and purchase two guns.

    There are already existing laws on the books regarding purchase of guns outside of store brought guns in the US, that already cover the areas like guns shows, and sale of firearms privately.

    Under Obama the enforcement of the law has dropped by 25% to 30% of the cases brought under the Bush presidency.

    Also under Obama he started a programme which allowed straw purchases to buy weapons and transport them untracked into Mexico, without the Mexico governments knowledge that has lead to the death of 1000s of Mexicans and others.

    However the media in the US is silent on this, where as the Iran-Contra affair which no one died was a huge scandel according to the media.

    The US media are a bunch of partisan hacks.

    I do have a suggestion as mid term elections are coming up in the US that every Democrat candiate campiagns on ban guns in the US. That should keep the House repbluican and flip the Senate.

    Losers.

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  17. Ed Snack (1,535 comments) says:

    This shows Obama’s very real weaknesses, he’s a show pony with fuck-all real nous. Flanked by weeping relatives…, christ in a handbucket, are there any lows that he won’t stoop to ? He wanted to ram this through regardless of whether it would make a difference, and it was almost universally acknowledged that it wouldn’t. If he/they were serious, they’d come up with some kid of laws that might work ! But they’re not serious, it was just another bit of political theatre to try to make hay from the last remnants of Obama’s goodwill from the election and to attempt to split the GOP for political advantage. If he’s not careful the slide from Lame Duck to Dead Duck will accelerate.

    The clearest points on this are those being made above, those cities with the most restrictive gun laws are the most violent and have the highest murder toll. The definition of insanity ? Taking laws that achieve the opposite of what you claim to want and make more of them.

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  18. lastmanstanding (1,154 comments) says:

    I gotta say that after the Muzzies the Yanks have got to be the next at killing each other and themselves.

    Don’t have stats but suggest a significant gap in killings per 1000 or 10000 or 100000 people which ever way you measure it between the above and say NZ Oz UK

    Does anyone have the numbers would be interested to see.

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  19. unaha-closp (1,033 comments) says:

    “But it is very hard to argue against universal background checks for gun sales.”

    Any senate bill attracts 18 quadrillion amendments and earmarks, just because the headline of the bill is agreeable doesn’t mean passing it is in any way worthwhile.

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  20. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    Personally I have no objection to background checks and even registration for gun owner, in principle at least. But the intent of the 2nd Amendment is to prevent against tyranny, something you cannot do effectively if the government knows who owns all the guns. Say what you like about how “far fetched” such a scenario is, logic dictates that if you start taking names, the whole point of the 2nd Amendment is nullified.

    America is not like us, they do not have the safeguard of a Queen and soldiers who swear loyalty to her. Their constitution is the only thing that stands in the way of draconian government. If it did not prevent the government from taking people’s guns off them, believe me the government would try. You may think that the American Right are crazy for thinking so, but the American Left is equally crazy. Americans in general are crazy. The 2nd Amendment would make no sense in a NZ context, but it is vital to America.

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