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Democrat-Controlled Senate Fails to Pass Even 'Watered-Down, Over-Compromised' Gun Legislation

Jon Queally, staff writer

A memorial for the Sandy Hook victims in Newtown, Connecticut. (Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

UPDATE (4:31 PM): By a vote of 54 to 46 and as expected, the US Senate failed to pass a gun safety bill on Wednesday.

The final vote showed five Democrats voting against it and only four Republican senators voting in supported.

As the The Hill reports, the proposed law

would have expanded checks to cover all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet but would have exempted sales between friends and acquaintances outside of commercial venues.

Democrats felt confident the compromise could pass once Toomey, a Republican with an A rating from the National Rifle Association, signed on. They were caught off guard by the vigorous lobbying campaign waged by the NRA, which warned lawmakers that Manchin-Toomey would be factored in its congressional scorecard.

What appeared to be a likely victory for Obama was resoundingly defeated by the Senate as jittery Democrats facing tough re-elections next year joined nearly the entire Republican conference.

EARLIER: Despite grand promises in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, which left a classroom full of child victims, the gun safety legislation currently in the US Senate—already described as both 'watered-down' and 'over-compromised'—appears to be on the verge of complete defeat.

"We will not get the votes today," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), admitted to NBC News Wednesday morning.

Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) were the co-sponsors of the bill that would have required an expansion of the federal background check system.

As The Hill reports:

[The two senators] crafted a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks to gun shows and online sales, but the measure is struggling to find the 60 votes needed in the face of gun lobby opposition.

Toomey echoed Manchin's statement Wednesday morning.

"As we sit here this morning, we don’t have the votes," Toomey told National Review.

"Now, there are enough undecided people that it’s still possible, but I’ll be the first to admit that there is a very, very narrow path to get to 60 votes," Toomey said.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein characterized the legislation as weak, calling it "watered-down, over-compromised, possibly ineffective."

"This bill is already on the bubble of being too weak to really be worth it," he added.

Whether this development says more about the weakness of the US Senate, or the strength of the nation's gun lobbyists—with the NRA the supreme example—remains open to debate.

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum was blunt in his Wednesday headline: Gun Control Bill Is Dead.

Drum writes:

Keep in mind that this was (a) a very watered-down proposal, and (b) included a whole slew of goodies for gun owners. And it still couldn't get 60 votes. And while its failure is obviously partly the fault of the filibuster rule, any bill that can only get about 55 votes in the Senate never had any chance in the House anyway.

How did this happen even though, as liberals remind us endlessly, 90 percent of the American public supports background checks? Because about 80 percent of those Americans think it sounds like a reasonable idea but don't really care much. I doubt that one single senator will suffer at the polls in 2014 for voting against Manchin-Toomey.

Gun control proposals poll decently all the time. But the plain truth is that there are only a small number of people who feel really strongly about it, and they mostly live in urban blue districts already. Outside of that, pro-gun control opinion is about an inch deep. This is a classic case where poll literalism leads you completely astray. Without measuring intensity of feeling, that 90 percent number is meaningless.


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