Video: Gun industry protection bill dies

updated 3/2/2004 7:32:48 PM ET 2004-03-03T00:32:48

Senate Republicans scuttled an election-year bill to immunize the gun industry from lawsuits Tuesday after Democrats amended it to extend an assault weapons ban and require background checks on all buyers at private gun shows.

The National Rifle Association began pressuring senators to vote against the bill after Democrats won votes on the two key gun control measures. The 90-8 vote against the bill virtually ends any chance for gun legislation to make it through Congress this year.

“I now believe it is so dramatically wounded that I would urge my colleagues to vote against it,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the sponsor of the gunmaker immunity bill.

Democrats won close votes on their amendments to change the Republican legislation, a strategy aimed at pressuring the GOP-dominated House to accept the restrictions to gain passage of the gun maker-immunity bill.

While Democrats won’t get the gun ban extension and the gun show legislation, they called the vote a success. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “The immunity bill was a terrible bill. We’re better off at the end of the day than we were at the beginning of the day.”

Underlining the importance of the day to Democrats, presidential contenders John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina broke away from the campaign trail to cast their first Senate votes of the year, joining the 52-47 majority on the assault weapons ban and the 53-46 majority on the gun show bill.

A dozen Republican senators voted for one or both of the provisions, allowing minority Democrats to gain the victories.

“This is sensible gun safety legislation,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “Now the question is, will the Republicans in the House, and Democrats, be allowed to vote on this?”

Holdup in the House
Republican House leaders, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, have said they don’t plan on voting on an assault weapons ban extension. But the gunmaker-immunity package has been a priority of the White House, the National Rifle Association and conservative groups who say the gun industry is being sued out of existence for making a legal product.

Guns in America

“It is really time that we say that enough is enough,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the sponsor of the gunmaker-immunity bill. “It is the individual who is responsible for the crime, not someone else.”

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“Once again we’re in a political season, and once again we’re debating gun ownership,” Craig added.

President Bush has called for the Senate to drop the Democratic amendments — despite saying earlier that he supported both — to ensure the lawsuit immunity bill moved quickly through Congress.

“The president is a strong supporter of stopping frivolous lawsuits and stopping lawsuit abuse. That’s the context in which he views this legislation,” spokesman Scott McClellan said. “Some are simply more interested in undermining that piece of legislation than they are in necessarily getting the other legislation passed.”

The assault weapons measure would renew the ban on the manufacture and importation of at least 19 types of common military-style assault weapons for 10 years. The current ban expires on Sept. 13.

The “gun show loophole” measure would require all buyers at private gun shows to go through a government background check. Under current law, unlicensed gun dealers at private shows are not required to ask for government background checks before selling weapons.

Supporters argued that in that way people who normally wouldn’t be able to buy guns can get dangerous weapons. “Criminals and terrorists are exploiting this obvious loophole in our gun safety laws,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

McCain, along with fellow Republicans John Warner, Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Charles Hagel of Nebraska, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island voted along with the Democrats on the background checks. Democrats Max Baucus of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska crossed party lines to vote with the Republicans.

Republicans who voted for ban
Ten Republicans broke party ranks on the assault weapons vote: Warner, Chafee, Fitzgerald, DeWine, Lugar, Voinovich, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Six Democrats voted against extending the ban: Baucus, Nelson, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Zell Miller of Georgia and Harry Reid of Nevada.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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