Disappointing gun rights advocates everywhere, the Senate voted 68 to 31 on Thursday to avoid a filibuster and begin debate on a highly controversial new bill that would require background checks on all firearm purchases.
Some Senators, such as Ted Cruz (R, TX), had promised to filibuster the bill. Cruz and his gun-loving allies were unable to break the strong majority and strangle the bill with a filibuster. Cruz was not overly dismayed by the setback. He told reporters, “It will be a good opportunity to continue this debate. What we’re going to see is a robust debate on two different philosophies.”
Despite Cruz’s best efforts, gun control advocates proved to have a more effective campaign. Senator Christopher Murphy (D, CT) noted, “You can’t turn a corner in the Capitol this week without meeting a family of a gun violence victim. It’s hard to say no to these families.”
Of course, this may all be for naught. The bill still has a rough road ahead of itself with emotionally-charged debate and gun control rhetoric on the national level. The Democrats may control 55 seats, but many of those Senators -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- may ruin their chances for reelection if they vote in favor of the gun control bill.
Gun rights advocates are trying to make sure of that. Extrano’s Alley, a gun blog, has already published a list containing the names and phone numbers of every Republican who voted to end the filibuster. There are 16 names on the list, including Senator Lindsey Graham from the fairly conservative South Carolina to Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Senators will spend the next several weeks debating the bill and offering amendments. Senators Joe Manchin III (D, WV) and Patrick J. Toomey have announced plans to introduce amendments that would expand the background checks to include unlicensed dealers at gun shows and online sales.
These amendments may very well be a pipe dream. With harsh opposition and an uncertain vote, gun control proponents hoping to push through this bill may need to water down the language and compromise if they hope to win over the right. The 16 Republicans who voted in favor of ending the filibuster – called “Rogue Republicans” by Extrano’s Alley – may not be enough to ensure the survival of this bill.