Senate narrowly rejects gun measure

Senate lawmakers defeated a Republican effort July 22 to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines. The measure was pushed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and was offered as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill, a must-pass piece of legislation.

Twenty Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, joined 38 Republicans in support of the provision. They were narrowly defeated by a 58-39 vote, just shy of 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

The National Rifle Association overwhelmingly supported the legislation, which would have allowed people who have concealed-weapon permits in their home states to take their firearms into other states – including California and others that currently prohibit the practice.

The measure would have allowed firearms owners from a state with less stringent standards for securing a permit to bring his or her weapon into a state with tougher requirements.

Every state except Illinois and Wisconsin allows concealed weapons, but the statutes concerning who is eligible to carry one vary widely by state.

Opponents of the bill called the measure an assault on states’ rights and warned that it would increase gun violence, not deter it.

“This is a grave threat to public safety,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the Chicago Tribune. “Concealed-weapons laws that work in rural states may not be suitable in urban areas. What’s good for Iowa or Alaska may not be good for California or New York,” she said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, in a recent statement added, “Lives have been saved with the defeat of this amendment. The passage of this amendment would have done more to threaten the safety of New Yorkers than anything since the repeal of the assault weapons ban.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that by May of this year over 36 teens and children, mostly Black and Latino died due to gun violence in Chicago.

During the July 4th weekend alone, Chicago tallied 63 shootings, including 11 fatal gun deaths. In the first six months of 2009, the city logged 202 homicide victims of which 88 percent were male, 78 percent were Black, 44 percent were between the ages of 20 and 30, and 84 percent were shot to death.

“Today’s Senate vote is a victory for those who support a sane national gun policy,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director with the Violence Policy Center, in a recent statement. “Concealed carry permit holders have already killed police officers, murdered innocent citizens, and committed mass shootings,” she said.

Rand’s group released a new national study that shows concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens in 31 incidents during the period May 2007 through April 2009. All but one of the killings were committed with guns resulting in criminal charges. In six of the cases, the shooter killed himself, bringing the total fatality count to 57. Five of the incidents were mass shootings resulting in the deaths of 23 victims.

“The danger of the Thune amendment is demonstrated by the fact that proponents of a nationalized concealed carry system argue that lax concealed handgun laws are the answer to mass shootings, but the hard facts are that concealed handgun permit holders do not prevent mass shootings, they perpetrate them,” says Rand.

Earlier this year, lawmakers voted to allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. The Senate also voted to limit Washington, D.C.’s gun control laws, and a House committee voted to prevent public housing projects from restricting legally owned guns.