WASHINGTON (CN) — On the heels of a nearly 15-hour filibuster by Democrats for gun-control legislation, the Senate faces a showdown over competing proposals.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., left the Senate floor just after 2 a.m. Thursday morning after 14 hours and 50 minutes of pushing legislation that will expand background checks and keep guns off limits to people on the federal terrorist watch list.
The latter safeguard would have kept Omar Mateen from legally buying the semiautomatic rifle he used to kill 49 in Orlando on Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Now two competing proposals on closing the so-called terror loophole are set to come up for a vote before the Senate, possibly as early as Thursday afternoon.
Less than nine hours after he left the floor, Murphy was back in the Capitol, speaking at a press conference where Democrats claimed victory for their filibuster and urged their colleagues to support their version of the gun-control legislation.
“My legs are a little bit rubbery, but my heart is strong,” said Murphy, whose own state has been pushing for such legislation in the wake of the massacre of first graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly four years ago.
Joined by a woman who lost her father in the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, and another who lost her mother months earlier at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Democrats said it is past time to take up gun-control legislation.
“We can’t just wait, we have to make something happen,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told reporters.
What form the gun legislation will take is not yet clear.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has offered legislation that would “ping” the Justice Department on any attempted purchase of a gun by someone who, in the past five years, has been involved in a terrorism investigation. Feinstein’s law would authorize the attorney general to deny such purchases.
It also requires the attorney general to create an appeals process for people who believe they are wrongly on the list.
The Justice Department announced its support of Feinstein’s legislation Thursday, and Feinstein told reporters that the White House called in support of the bill as well.
“The amendment gives the Justice Department an important additional tool to prevent the sale of guns to suspected terrorists by licensed firearms dealers while ensuring protection of the department’s operation and investigative sensitivities,” the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has offered competing legislation he said would better protect people put wrongly on the list. He told reporters Thursday he hoped to “grow” the vote from when he last offered it in December.
That proposal included a 72-hour delay for anyone trying to purchase a gun while on a terror watch list. The attorney general could seek an injunction on the purchase during that window.
Democrats critical of Cornyn’s bill say delays are not enough to prevent people with bad intentions from buying guns.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ripped the proposal at the Thursday morning press conference, noting that the FBI would simply arrest the suspect if it had the evidence required to block the gun purchase.
“It’s a fake,” Schumer at a press conference. “It’s a way for them to say they’re doing something when they’re doing nothing.”
Cornyn defended the bill and emphasized the importance of granting due-process protections to people placed wrongfully on the watch list.
“Affirming the constitutional rights of American citizens is not a smokescreen,” Cornyn told reporters.
“That anybody can be denied their constitutional rights to due process of law without the government coming forward and establishing probably cause is simply un-American,” he added later.
While Feinstein said the proposals will likely come to the floor next week, Cornyn did not rule out the possibility of a vote on Thursday. He assumed Feinstein’s proposal would come up alongside his, but was not sure whether another, offered by Murphy, Schumer and Booker to expand background checks, would go forward alongside a Republican alternative.
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