Senate may introduce new gun control bills
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The April 17 failure of an amendment to a gun bill in the U.S. Senate that would have expanded background checks for some firearms buyers was seen as a major blow for gun control advocates, but Senators are already working on plans to move forward new gun-related measures.
Any new gun control bills will have to begin in the Senate because the U.S. House of Representatives isn't going to move on any.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, "made it clear that we weren't going to take anything up until the Senate passes something," said Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents the Third Congressional District, including Coweta.
Every time the House has sent something to the Senate lately "they don't take it up," Westmoreland said. "There is no point in us doing that."
Westmoreland said he doesn't see any gun control bills originating in the House, and he's not sure anything will even pass the Senate.
The much-lauded "Manchin-Toomey" amendment that was considered a background check compromise failed by a vote of 54-46. For the most part, issues require a 60-vote super majority for Senate approval.
Westmoreland said most of the Democrats who voted against the bill are in "tight races in red states."
"So it is going to make it very difficult for them to vote for something," he said. And the amendment "seemed to be a pretty watered-down version. So if they couldn't get that passed I don't know if it is likely they will get anything passed."
But talks to revive gun control measures are taking place in the Senate, according to "The New York Times."
Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, the authors of the amendment, have been talking about how they could persuade more senators to support their plan. Only four Republicans voted for the amendment.
Manchin told the "New York Times" he was looking at tweaking the language of the bill to satisfy some concerns, such as the belief that background checks for in-person gun sales would be too onerous for people who live far from gun dealers. There are also discussions on an antitrafficking bill between Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York , and Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Charles Grassley of Iowa, who voted no on the background check bill.
The anti-trafficking bill would make it a crime to transfer or ship a gun to someone who is legally barred from possessing a firearm. Currently, it's only illegal to do that if you know the person isn't supposed to have a gun.
Westmoreland thinks the government needs to start enforcing existing laws.
"We have gun laws that are on the books that are not enforced. And we even had our own federal government running a gun-running program in Mexico," he said. "We're never going to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals," he said. Laws only apply to law-abiding citizens.
Plus "we ship arms to Syria, we shipped them to Libya, and we don't have any idea who we were even shipping these arms to," he said.
The cause of violence, of course, is not the weapons used to commit it.
"We do have a definite mental health issue," Westmoreland said. "If you look at these people that have committed some of these horrendous cries - they were not exactly stable," he said.