Politics

5 Things You Need to Know About the Gun Control Filibuster

June 15th 2016

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

For one afternoon, at least, U.S. Senators are putting aside "thoughts and prayers" to speak out on gun control.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people, Senate Democrats, led by Connecticut Sen. Christopher Murphy, launched a filibuster Wednesday to protest a lack of legislative action to prevent mass shootings.

For those unfamiliar with the process, Murphy basically held the Senate floor as a form of protest, and answered "questions" from fellow Democrats about gun control, without giving up the floor. The "questions" during a filibuster are an excuse for other senators to give their opinions on issues without violating the rules of a filibuster.

Here are five things you need to know about the gun control filibuster that's happening on the Senate floor.

1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that there "will be blood on our hands" if Congress doesn't act.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave an impassioned speech to the Senate floor about the Orlando shooting victims and criticized legislators for their failure to act on gun legislation in the past.

Like many of the senators, Warren slammed the "watch list loop hole" that allowed shooter Omar Mateen to buy an semi-automatic rifle, even though he had been questioned by the FBI twice on suspicion of ties to terrorism or expressing terrorist sentiments.

"If someone cannot get on an airplane because the FBI is concerned that they might be plotting to do harm against Americans, then they shouldn't be able to to walk into a store and buy a Rambo-style assault weapon," she said.

Warren warned senators that if they don't act the next shooting will be their fault.

"If we fail to act the next time someone uses a gun to kill one of us, a gun that we could have kept out of the hands of a terrorist, then members of this congress will have blood on our hands," Warren said. 

2. Murphy wants us to remember the Sandy Hook shooting, because he can't forget.

Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)

Murphy led this filibuster and he emphasized that the Senate is not "powerless" on the issue of gun control and that senators have an obligation to do something. He said that he can't go back to the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and tell them that the Congress still hasn't done anything about gun control.

"I can't tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later we've done nothing, nothing at all to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again to another family," Murphy said.

In the Sandy Hook shooting, 20 of the 26 people killed were children.

He also emphasized the danger of people like Omar Mateen being able to buy firearms. Murphy cited a Government Accountability Office report, which stated that persons on the U.S. government's consolidated Terrorist Watchlist were able to complete 223 gun transactions in 2015 alone.

3. Some Democrats are taking a pro-Second Amendment approach to new gun control legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchinm (D-WV)

Sen. Joe Manchin said that responsible gun owners like himself have nothing to worry about if new gun legislation is passed. In fact, he said that if people bothered to read past proposed legislation, they would realize that the Second Amendment was actually being strengthened.

"In fact, those who took time to read it, we protected the Second Amendment greater than it's ever been protected," Manchin said.

The native West Virginian said that he understands American "gun culture," and argued that background checks, waiting periods, and gun bans for people on the Terrorist Watchlist would only strengthen the traditions of gun safety already in place.

"At a very young age we're taught how to handle guns safely. We're taught basically you never sell your gun to a stranger. You never sell your gun to someone who has a criminal background. You never sell your gun to someone who's mentally unstable. You don't even give your gun to a friend of a family member if you don't think they're responsible. This is how we're taught in a gun culture." — Sen. Joe Manchin

Manchin said that closing gun loopholes aligns with what already exists in "gun culture" traditions, and gun control legislation doesn't mean a ban on guns in the U.S. He referenced failed gun control discussions after the Sandy Hook shooting. The grieving family members came to Congress in 2013 to demand gun control, but there still wasn't any legislative action.

"Even those wonderful, wonderful families, who [had a] tragic loss of their children, they weren't trying to ban anything," said Manchin. "They wanted common sense."

4. Some action on gun control may be coming soon.

During the filibuster, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas., met to discuss possible gun control legislation, according to Roll Call.

"There's no debate that we both want to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists," said Cornyn to Roll Call. "We want to make sure it's done in a constitutional way,"

5. The National Rifle Association said it doesn't want people on the Terrorist Watchlist to be able to buy guns.

Also during the filibuster, National Rifle Association said that people on the Terrorism Watchlist should be banned from buying guns.

Donald Trump wrote on his Twitter page that they will be meeting with him to discuss watch list legislation.

However the NRA's Twitter account also encouraged members to oppose any new gun legislation during the filibuster.

Two weeks ago President Barack Obama said that the NRA was blocking legislation that would prevent terrorists from buying guns.

Update 6/16/2016 8:55 a.m. PST:

After a 15 hour filibuster, where Murphy couldn't sit, eat, or go to the bathroom, he called it quits at 2:11 a.m. local time. He stopped after Republicans agreed to vote on gun control proposals by Democratic senators. More than 40 people spoke about gun control during the filibuster. 

RELATED: What We Know About the Orlando Victims So Far