But there are two big differences between the Senate effort that Biden was a part of in 1993 and now: Mitch McConnell and filibuster. As a progressive activist Joe Sudbay noted, the 1993 assault weapons ban obliterated the Democrat-controlled Senate by simple majority vote, 56 to 43, with 46 Democrats and 10 Republicans voting for the bill. Democrats never had to cross a 60-vote threshold because the GOP Senate minority had yet to begin filibustering to bomb every bill that has won their lives in the House.
The same was true of a 1999 measure requiring background checks at all gun shows and pawn shops, which wiped out the Senate. by simple majority, 51-50, with then-vice president Al Gore voting for the tie-breaker. The bill was passed just a month after the Columbine High School massacre that left 12 students and a teacher dead – a holdover from a time when Congress was still functional enough to respond to a national crisis with legislative fixes .
When the ban on assault weapons and the law on gun shows were extended in 2004, they passed the Senate again by simple majority votes but died in the house. Republicans controlled both the upper and lower chambers that year.
But as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting claimed the lives of 20 children and six school employees, Senator McConnell was leading the Senate minority. Under his deranged leadership, Republicans filibustered and condemned a bipartisan bill that would have required background checks on all commercial firearms sales. The measure failed on the issue of the motion to debate – a standard requiring 60 votes that had not been applied to most previous gun control measures. Although the bill has collected the support of 55 senators, he fell by five votes before the threshold of 60 votes imposed by the systematic obstruction. (Then-Majority Leader Harry Reid later changed his vote to “no,” a procedural decision that would allow him to raise the measure for another vote.)
As Atlantic editor Ron Brownstein tweeted, this 2013 vote perfectly highlighted how Senate obstruction effectively gave voters in small rural states a minority veto over the will of the majority. “In 2013, the last time the Senate considered universal background checks,” Brownstein wrote, “the 55 senators voting yes represented 194 million people; the 45 voters not only 118 million; but with the filibuster, the 45 won. “
The senators who voted in favor of the background check were therefore 76 million more people than the senators who won.
Now here we are again. In the aftermath of two horrific tragedies in Georgia and Colorado, Democrats try to push forward common sense gun laws that will save lives, but McConnell is imposing minority rule on the will of the majority through a mechanism which was never even included in the Constitution in the first one. location.
It has to stop. No democratic nation can exist indefinitely in a state where a minority of citizens imposes its will on the majority in perpetuity. It is simply not sustainable.