WASHINGTON – Maine’s U.S. senators expressed strong disappointment Wednesday about the Senate’s rejection of a proposal to expand background checks for private gun sales.
Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King were among 54 senators who voted in support of the background check compromise, which fell six votes short of passage.
The legislation would have required background checks before person-to-person firearm sales at gun shows and through advertisements including classified listings like Augusta-based Uncle Henry’s.
“It was an entirely reasonable bill and I think it is very disappointing that people didn’t look at the details more and, instead, listened to descriptions about the bill that were just not accurate,” Collins said.
The proposal was one of seven gun-related measures — including one sponsored by Collins — that failed Wednesday to get the 60 votes they needed to pass in the Senate.
With conservative Republicans in control of the House, the Senate was regarded as the more likely body to pass the first major gun legislation in decades.
King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said afterward that he has “yet to hear or dream up any rational reason” for opposing the legislation.
“So I am shocked,” King said while leaving the Capitol. “We had a bipartisan bill supported by 90 percent of the American people.”
The 90 percent figure comes from numerous polls, including ones conducted by The Washington Post-ABC News, Pew Research Center and Quinnipiac, which show between 86 and 91 percent of Americans support background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows.
King said that “in a normal universe,” it would have passed because it got more than 50 of the Senate’s 100 votes. But because the Senate often requires 60 votes to pass major issues, the measure failed.
Asked whether the votes made him question the filibuster reform negotiated earlier this year, King simply replied, “Yes.”
Maine’s senators voted on both sides — and sometimes on opposite sides — of the various measures considered Wednesday.
Both were among the 60 senators who opposed a proposal to ban the type of military-style assault weapon that was used by the gunmen who killed dozens of people in a Connecticut elementary school and a Colorado movie theater last year.
King voted to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines while Collins opposed the measure.
Collins, who has been under pressure from both sides in the gun debate, was a co-sponsor, with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, of a bill to strengthen federal laws to prevent gun trafficking and “straw purchases” of guns.
That proposal, widely viewed as having strong bipartisan support, fell just two votes shy of the 60 it needed.
“It was strongly supported by a wide range of law enforcement groups — very widely supported — and I think that is a testament to the fact that straw purchasing and gun trafficking put guns in the hands of criminals,” Collins said. “But I think this was an environment where nothing was going to pass. And I think that once the (background check) compromise … was defeated, it spelled the end of the debate.”
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