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Democrats Scramble to Block Thune Gun Amendment

Updated 2:36 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray
Senate Democrats are scrambling to produce 40 votes -- or a mere two-thirds of their caucus -- to defeat a GOP-led push to override state gun laws.

Republicans have twice this year scored significant pro-gun victories with substantial moderate Democratic support. The minority party lured away a whopping 27 swing-state Democrats to support looser rules on guns in national parks. And a similar coalition has stalled the District of Columbia's quest for House voting representation, by adding language to the Senate version to ease D.C. firearm restrictions.

The latest measure, offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), has far greater reach. Offered today as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, it would allow individuals to carry concealed firearms across state lines if they "have a valid permit or if, under their state of residence, they are entitled to do so," Thune explained in a statement.

Thune and his allies contend that by overriding stricter state laws that limit the transport of firearms, the Thune measure would help to lower crime. "Since criminals are unable to tell who is and who is not carrying a firearm just by looking at a potential victim, they are less likely to commit crimes when they fear that they may come in direct contact with an individual who is armed," the statement said.

But Democrats, especially those who represent big cities, were aghast at the sweep of the amendment and are rallying mayors and governors to help win back earlier Democratic defectors. "This amendment is a bridge too far, and could endanger the safety of millions of Americans," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Schumer, who has pledged the filibuster the amendment, said it represented a breach of state rights. "Each state has carefully crafted its concealed-carry laws in the way that makes the most sense to protect its citizens. Clearly, large, urban areas merit a different standard than rural areas. To gut the ability of local police and sheriffs to determine who should be able to carry a concealed weapon makes no sense. It could reverse the dramatic success we've had in reducing crime in most all parts of America," Schumer said.

The National Rifle Association called the Thune amendment "important and timely pro-gun reform" and urged its members to lobby lawmakers to support it, when it comes to a vote later this week. "The right to self-defense does not end at state lines," the NRA statement asserted.

Schumer and his Senate allies, including Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), are seeking to convince new Democratic senators, many from Western states where the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, that this measure is primarily a political taunt. Two key targets: Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both freshman Democratic senators from Colorado who voted with Republicans on the national parks measure.

Another target is Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who voted with Republicans on the national parks provision, but has since switched his allegiance to the Democratic Party and faces a primary challenge in his 2010 re-election bid. Among the 450 mayors around the country who are seeking to defeat the Thune measure are 106 Democratic mayors from Pennsylvania.

Also, families and survivors of victims in the Virginia Tech shootings will run a full-page ad in Monday's Richmond Times-Dispatch calling on Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner to vote against the amendment. Both lawmakers are counted in the party's pro-gun camp.

The Thune amendment is cosponsored by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), another Democrat who has voted consistently with the N.R.A.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 20, 2009; 2:25 PM ET
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I'm a Dem. We better support this amendment.

Posted by: ohohBoB | July 20, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

So how, exactly, would this endanger anyone? This bill does not seek to allow people who are criminals to carry guns. Only those people who have already passed a criminal background check and legally qualified to carry a concealed weapon would be allowed to carry. The vast majority of states already issue these licenses to their own citizens who meet the exact same criteria, and most already have reciprocity agreements with each other. So this would only change things in a very small minority of states that currently are out of step with most of the rest of the country.

And despite all the BS about "wild west" shootouts, and "blood in the streets" that preceded these already-existing state laws, no such thing has happened in any such state. In fact, since the flood of states joining the "shall issue" CCW movement, violent crime, gun crime, and even gun accidents have been steadily declining throughout the US, especially in "shall issue" states.

While the anti-gun lobby is putting forward assertions that a handful of people have been murdered by CCW holders, as if that was evidence that CCW increases the chance of such crimes, they fail to do the necessary comparison against how many murders have been committed in the same time period by people without such licenses. They also fail to mention the US Department of Justice Report on Justifiable Homicide that shows that even several police officers have had their lives saved by armed citizens, or the statistics that show that CCW holders as a group commit far less crime per capita than almost any other group of citizens.

Schumer just doesn't like that this would force the handful of states that reserve CCW permits for the rich and politically connected, while denying them to the average citizen, to accept that self-defense is not the exclusive privilege of the social elite, and that US citizens do not lose their rights just because they cross state lines.

Posted by: Rob29 | July 21, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

"Since criminals are unable to tell who is and who is not carrying a firearm just by looking at a potential victim, they are less likely to commit crimes when they fear that they may come in direct contact with an individual who is armed"

By this logic, everyone should be carrying a concealed weapon. Let's make it mandatory for everyone to carry a hidden gun. Boy, the criminals would really be scared then.

Posted by: moosejerky | July 21, 2009 2:33 AM | Report abuse

We should get rid of all guns.

Posted by: janye1 | July 21, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

State's rights should not be trampled. Nor should the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

I say let all states seeking reciprocity for state-to-state carry form a concealed carry coalition. Boycott travel (at all opportunities) to any state that does not join the coalition. Do not travel to non-participating states for business, tourism, recreation, etc. if it can be avoided. That way states who do not want to host law abiding citizens that wish to carry concealed weapons will not be forced to change their laws / attitudes. They should not be obligated to accept concealed carry citizens. It may cost them millions in commerce, but that’s their right. long live state's rights.

Posted by: Portland1 | July 21, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I hope this bill becomes law. I look forward to traveling into NYC with my concealed carry Glock 27 to protect myself against any criminals now protected by NYC law, via curent law that doesn't allow me to carry there to protect myself. Tough love Schumer!

Posted by: lorddunsmore | July 21, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Democrats are spineless.

Not because they want to ban guns, they are certainly entitled to that opinion. What makes them cowardly is they have no conviction in their beliefs it they are worried it will cost them votes.

Posted by: BO_Stinks | July 21, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

janye1 said: "We should get rid of all guns."

Yeah okay Jane.

Are you laboring under the delusion that punks carry legal guns?
Here's a clue - They don't.

Further - punks are scared to death of armed citizens.

Want a lower crime rate and less shootings?
Train and arm as many upright citizens as possible.

Honestly; why is it the obvious is so difficult for some of these anti-gun people to grasp?

Posted by: A_C_R | July 21, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

National reciprocity gets passed = Win for the people. OR

Bill passes and anti gun states revoke CCW = Dems get punished. OR

Bill fails = Dems get punished in 2010


Posted by: bubba17 | July 21, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

A_C_R wrote (I'm paraphrasing here) that the more upright citizens carrying gones, the lower the crime rate and the less violent crime. Well, it is not necessarily as simple as that. Look at most countries in Western Europe who have gun laws that are most, most tougher than anything seen in the US - and these countries have generally less violent crimes than the US. And a country like South Africa with a high rate of also legal gun ownership has a lot of killings and other violent crime.

In many European countries, criminals do not carry guns as they are not necessary to commit crimes, consequently it is very seldom that a victim of a crime gets killed by his assailant. On the contrary, in South Africa many (most?) criminals carry guns which is one of the factors leading to a high rate of fatalities in connection with crime. Also, the reason why many South African criminals tend to be very trigger-happy is that they are afraid that if they do not shoot first, they might be shot by a crime victim carrying concealed guns.

Posted by: ulrik_s | July 22, 2009 4:47 AM | Report abuse

if you don't block this dangers bill it going to be a lot of people dead mainly blacks thoses of color we of color knows why they are doing this same people who saying president Obama is not a american is behind this mess with the guns they intend to kill someone and that very frighten vote this bill down as well as the bill about who ever run for president has to produce a birth certicate that all bull and i'm tired of the mess they should gather up all them with this hatefulness and arrest them for treason because that what it is they can't stand a man of color in the white house they act as if the own this country when they don't they need to get over it accept the country went in a different direction like all the years we as people of color accept what was laid before us we will not go back to business as usually it is so sad when you see this kind of act and thoses who are stirring this up, just know the hard you try to stir up trouble the more the people will see this for what it is.

Posted by: nyokadavis | July 22, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

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