Senate Defeats Expansion of Gun Rights

A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New YorkPat Dollard


The Senate beat back a new gun rights push Wednesday, defeating a proposal to expand the rights of gun owners to carry their weapons on federal lands.

Still, Wednesday’s vote drew more support than last month’s efforts to impose new gun controls in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, suggesting that momentum remains on the side of Second Amendment supporters.  

The 56-43 vote was four shy of the 60 needed to be adopted under Senate rules.

At stake was the ability to carry weapons firearms on Army Corps of Engineers lands in states where carrying weapons is legal already.

Under federal rules, it is illegal to carry weapons on Corps lands unless specifically for the purpose of hunting. Sen. Tom Coburn, who wrote the amendment, said people should be able to carry weapons for self defense, too — and said it’s already legal on Forest Service and Park Service lands.

“Why would we dare deny the rights that we give everywhere else on federal land — why would we do something different on corps land,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

The gun showdown came as part of a broader debate over a public works bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, who led the charge against the amendment, said it could have created a national security risk.

She said Mr. Coburn’s bill would allow guns to be carried near critical infrastructure such as dams or reservoirs, which could be considered a national security risk. Mr. Coburn said his amendment would not allow that.

Mrs. Boxer pleaded with colleagues not to go into another gun debate.

“This is not a gun bill. I beg my colleagues, whatever side you are on, we cannot turn this bill into a gun bill,” she said., threatening to pull the entire bill from the floor if the amendment succeeded.

The vote was the first gun showdown since last month’s effort to pass more gun controls failed.

Gun control advocates had hoped that the shooting deaths of 20 schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December would spur Congress to expand background checks and ban some types of semiautomatic weapons.

But the most important of those proposals only garnered 55 votes of support, leaving it five shy of the threshold needed.

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