Senate Democrats today narrowly defeated an amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry their weapons across state lines without regard for stricter laws in many jurisdictions, giving preference to states with looser standards, the Washington Post reports. In a 58-39 vote, supporters of the looser gun law fell two votes short of the 60 they needed to approve the measure. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), showed bitter divisions among a Democratic caucus that now holds 60 seats, many of whom got to the Senate by winning in conservative states as they supported gun rights.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), campaigning for re-election in 2010, sided with gun rights supporters. His top lieutenants, Richard Durbin (D-Il.) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), led the push against the measure. The National Rifle Association called Thune’s amendment “important and timely pro-gun reform” and urged a yes vote.
Even in defeat, the debate demonstrated the continued power of the National Rifle Association and gun rights advocates in Congress, because the Thune amendment was considered the most far reaching federal effort ever proposed to expand laws to allow weapons ownership.
Offered as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill, it would allow people to carry concealed firearms across state lines, provided they “have a valid permit or if, under their state of residence … are entitled to do so.” This means that someone who had a concealed-carry permit for his gun in a state like Vermont — with some of the loosest gun-control laws in the nation — could cross over into other states with their guns and not be found guilty of violating those states’ tighter gun laws.