The action on the Senate floor today was dominated by responses from Senators to the attack in Orlando on Sunday that left 49 people dead and at least 53 wounded. Proposed solutions split down predictable party lines though, and there seemed to be little consensus between the two parties on the motivations for the attacks.
Senate Democrats largely proposed expanding gun control, with Harry Reid, D-NV, taking the lead in his opening remarks by proposing limits on clip sizes and lamenting the failure of earlier gun control efforts spearheaded by the Democratic Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein.
The Senior Senator from Florida, Bill Nelson(D), praised the work of Law Enforcement agencies in responding to the attacks.
“Cooperation [has been] almost seamless between local, state, and federal law enforcement.”
He commended the work of the FBI, saying they’ve “[done] a good job.”
Mr. Nelson said that he had received a phone call from Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, whose state faced similar tragedy in 2012 when a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, in a school shooting in Newtown.
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts proposed a ban on the AR-15 rifle, which was used in Sunday’s attack, and called the NRA “Not Relevant Anymore” in American politics. He carried on Senator Reid’s theme of closing so-called terror loopholes too, by calling for preventing those on the terror watchlist from buying guns.
“We need to give the protections to the American people so they know those on terror watchlists cannot buy a gun in the US.”
Mr. Markey went on to hold up a bill he had introduced that would provide funding to the CDC to do research on gun violence, a move that has been blocked by Senate Republicans in the past. The bill would fund research at $10 Million a year over the next six years.
His four gun control objectives reflected well what most of his Democratic colleagues were focusing on today. Those objectives are:
Closing the gun show loophole
Closing the loophole allowing domestic abusers to purchase firearms
Closing the loophole which allows for straw purchases
Repealing a law the grants gun manufacturers immunity from liability litigation
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware emphasized themes that many on the Republican side did, in speaking on the floor about the need to “degrade and destroy ISIS,” and “demonstrate that ISIS is a losing team.”
He made clear that he was committed to not turning his back on immigration, saying “we accept the people who come to our shores.”
At the same time, he championed more active shooter training for the Department of Homeland Security and more funding for fusion centers across the country.
“[We] need to strengthen our defenses at home” Mr. Carper finished, as he expressed doubt over the effectiveness of greater gun control.
The Republican senators who spoke all condemned Islamic terrorism and paid their respects to the dead, but also talked about other issues that are a part of their legislative agenda.
Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, offered his condolences to the victims of the attack. Senator Steve Daine of Montana offered his condolences too, calling the events of Sunday “an act of terror on American soil,” and warning of the danger the country faces.
“This threat of ISIS is continuing to grow each and every day.”
The Republican Senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson, offered his condolences along with the affirmation that “wherever radical Islamic terrorism is, I want to root it out and I want to destroy it.”
Richard Durbin, D-IL, called the attack “a sobering reminder that [the LGBT] community remains a target of vicious hatred.”
“Our laws currently allow dangerous people to buy guns. That has to change,” Mr. Durbin went on to say.
He offered his condolences as well, but forcefully stated that “thoughts and prayers are important, but not sufficient.”
He finished by condemning Republican nominee Donald Trump by quoting General Michael Hayden, who was CIA director under the administration of George W. Bush.
Hayden characterized Mr. Trump’s response to the attack, who has claimed that the United States is “importing” Islamic terrorism and that a halt on Muslim immigration is the proper response, as “prejudiced, simplistic, [and] frankly inaccurate.”
Mr. Durbin called for unity.
“We must not allow the actions of a hateful few to divide us.”
Finally, Robert Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, introduced the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would prohibit those convicted of hate crime misdemeanor offenses from owning guns. He called for a ban on what he characterized as military style assault weapons, a reduction in clip size, the closing of the terror loophole, and called the attack “first an act of terror, and also an act of hate.”
Senator Casey finished with a call to appropriate money for law enforcement if they indicate needing it, and taking the fight to the terrorists by focusing on violent extremism at all levels of enforcement.
He said that “common sense” gun measures are not enough alone.
–by Marlon J. Ettinger