Democrats Divided Over Gun Amendment in D.C.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s decision to join nearly two dozen Democrats in supporting a Republican gun amendment could foretell difficulties for the Obama administration if the White House pushes for stricter firearms limits.

Twenty-two Democrats — most of them from Western or conservative-leaning states — voted Thursday in favor of an amendment by Nevada Republican John Ensign that would codify a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a District of Columbia gun ownership ban and declared for the first time that the Second Amendment includes an individual right to bear arms. The amendment, which Ensign offered to legislation (S 160) that would grant D.C. residents full voting rights in the House, was adopted 62-36.

“People are afraid,” Ensign said after the vote, when asked to explain Democratic support for his amendment. “From a purist standpoint, I hope that they now just see more of the importance of the Constitution. But from a cynical standpoint I guess you could say that they’re just making sure that they’re not voting against what they think voters in their states would respond to.”

Ensign’s amendment would repeal the District’s ban on semiautomatic weapons, bar the city’s registration requirements for most guns and drop criminal penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm.

The first gun-related Senate vote of the 111th Congress underscores a schism within the Democratic Party. While senators from more densely populated, urban states in the Northeast and the West Coast are committed to tightening gun restrictions now that Democrats control Congress and the White House, senators from more rural and conservative states in the Midwest and West are prepared to block such efforts.

“Any gun vote is difficult for Westerners — Democrat Westerners,” said Sen. John Thune , R-S.D.

Thursday’s vote came one day after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Obama administration would work to reinstate the nationwide assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Reid, who is facing a potentially tough re-election bid in 2010, was endorsed in 2004 by the National Rifle Association and has opposed a ban on assault weapons.

“The Second Amendment’s pretty important,” said Montana Democrat Jon Tester , who voted for Ensign’s proposal.

Tester, who added that he would oppose any attempt to reinstitute an assault weapons ban, said Democratic leaders did not pressure him to vote one way or another on the amendment. “Not a word,” he said. “I think everybody in Congress knows where I am on this issue. It’s not a secret. So there was no pressure. No pressure either way.”
Last-Minute Decisions

Reid and several other Western Democrats who ultimately supported the amendment had not decided Thursday afternoon how they would vote. As he walked onto the Senate floor for the vote, freshman Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet still had not made up his mind.

“I’m going to talk to my colleagues about it,” said Bennet, who was appointed earlier this year to replace fellow Democrat Ken Salazar , now Obama’s Interior secretary. Bennet, who has never before held elected office, would face election in 2010.

Two other freshman Democrats — Colorado’s Mark Udall and New Mexico’s Tom Udall — also were undecided shortly before the vote. Like Reid and Bennet, they supported the amendment in the end.

More-liberal Democrats, such as Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, vehemently opposed the measure, which Durbin described as “one of the most extreme pieces of legislation on the issue of guns” that he’d seen. Durbin said Ensign’s amendment would prohibit D.C. officials from “saying to a person who is visually impaired and a chronic alcoholic who has voluntarily committed himself to a mental institution and who is under the age of 12 from owning a gun. . . . That strikes me as over the edge.”

Another outspoken critic of the amendment — California Democrat Dianne Feinstein — announced late Thursday that she plans to introduce legislation reinstating the federal assault weapons ban.

Thursday’s vote also was a tricky one for New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand , whose opposition to measures designed to curtail gun owners’ rights has led to talk of a primary challenge in 2010. But Gillibrand opposed the Ensign amendment, which she said was “far too broad,” adding it would threaten “some of the common-sense regulations and laws that actually can crack down on the criminals getting access to the weapons.”

Gillibrand played down the idea that her vote was politically motivated or that it might put her at odds with Upstate New York voters.

“No one in Upstate New York wants criminals to have guns,” she said. “I feel very strongly that I’m going to fight against gun violence in our communities and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and I’m also going to protect the Second Amendment. I think those two views are not mutually exclusive. I think you can absolutely do both.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas said Democrats were smart to recruit candidates whose views on gun issues reflected those of their constituents.

“Democrats have done a pretty good job. . . . I think Republicans could learn a little bit of something from the way they’ve picked their candidates that fit those states but may not fit the ideological agenda here in Washington,” Cornyn said.

Ensign acknowledged that his amendment likely would be dropped if the bill goes to conference with the House but said he would pressure Democrats to retain it.

“We’re going to try to put enough pressure from the outside to make sure they don’t drop it,” he said. “But I think, yes, the odds of them dropping it are pretty high.”

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Torch Wielding Villager
Reid's support as well as other Westerners may be largely token or their constituents if they know the measure won't'll be interesting to follow and see which Commecrat actually does open the assault weapons ban can of worms.


I say let 'em go ahead and try and get the whole issue over with once and for all! Then we can quit wasting our time worrying about politics and get back to the range and have some fun!


New member
Enough of the pussy-footing around.

Let the issue of repealing the second amendment be resolved now by a vote of the states. Otherwise, the right should be guaranteed as the founding fathers envisioned.

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