21 Jun 2016

US Senate rejects gun control measure

2:49 pm on 21 June 2016

The United States Senate has rejected four measures restricting guns after last week's mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub.

Mourners hold candles while observing a moment of silence during a vigil outside a performing arts centre in Orlando.

Mourners observing a moment of silence during a vigil for the victims of the Orlando mass killing. Photo: AFP

In a familiar setback for gun control advocates, all four of the measures to expand background checks on gun buyers and curb gun sales to those on terrorism watch lists - two put forth by Democrats and two by Republicans - fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage in the 100-member chamber.

Republicans and their allies in the gun lobby said the two Democratic bills were too restrictive and trampled on the constitutional right to bear arms.

Democrats attacked the two Republicans' plans as too weak.

"It's always the same. After each tragedy, we try, we Democrats try to pass sensible gun safety measures. Sadly, our efforts are blocked by the Republican Congress who take their marching orders from the National Rifle Association," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the Democratic measures were ineffective and Democrats were not sincere in their effort.

"Instead of using this as an opportunity to push a partisan agenda or craft the next 30-second campaign ad, [Republican senators] are pursuing real solutions that can help keep Americans safer from the threat of terrorism."

However, senior Senate aides have left open the possibility of other votes later in the week on unspecified gun control proposals.

Senator Chris Murphy speaks to reporters after waging an almost 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in order to force a vote on gun control on June 15.

Senator Chris Murphy speaks to reporters after his 15-hour filibuster. Photo: AFP

Democrat Senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, held the floor on Wednesday night in a 15-hour filibuster - a tactic that enables lawmakers to block proceedings - to urge a vote on gun control.

The filibuster came to an end when Republicans eventually pledged to hold votes on measures for expanding background checks and preventing people on terrorism watch lists to obtain guns.

Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation. Photo: AFP

The deadliest mass shooting in modern US historylast week had intensified pressure on lawmakers and spurred quick action, but the gun-control measures lost in largely party-line votes that showed the lingering political power in Congress of gun rights defenders and the National Rifle Association.

Gun control efforts failed after mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 and a conference centre in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. But some senators see resistance to gun restrictions softening as national security looms larger in the debate.

Congress has not passed new gun restrictions since a 2007 expansion of the government's automatic background check database to include individuals with a history of mental illness and felons. The United States has more than 310 million weapons, about one for every citizen.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week found that 71 percent of Americans favor at least moderate regulations and restrictions on gun sales. That compared with 60 percent in late 2013 and late 2014.

-BBC / Reuters

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