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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Musings on the National Concealed Carry Vote

The Grand Junction Colorado Sentinel ran an editorial last Friday discussing how things work in Washington when it comes to votes on controversial issues - and specifically what Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote the day before regarding how some of the Democratic members of the Senate decided to vote on the Thune Amendment.

How do you outgun the NRA? Very, very carefully.

...Toward the end of the vote, Pryor entered the chamber through the back door, took a few steps inside, flashed a thumbs-down to the clerk, and retreated as fast and furtively as somebody dodging gunfire.

Several minutes later, the Democrats had racked up more than enough votes to block the proposal. "Are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote?" the presiding officer inquired.

Pryor burst back in, this time through a side door. "Mr. President!" he called out. "Mr. President!" He stopped in the well to consult with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a gun-control advocate who was keeping the whip sheet. Schumer gave Pryor a nod, and the Arkansan -- reassured that his vote was not needed to defeat the proposal -- changed his vote to an "aye."

Only two Republicans went against the gun lobby, but that was enough to leave supporters just short of the 60 votes they needed. The slim margin was no accident: Other Democrats, such as Pennsylvania's Bob Casey and Colorado's Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, were said to have been willing to vote "no" if necessary. Twenty minutes after the voting began, Bennet and Udall left the cloakroom together and walked into the chamber. Bennet went to the well to consult with Schumer, who indicated that it was safe for Bennet -- a product of D.C.'s St. Albans School -- to vote with the NRA. Bennet looked to Udall, who gave an approving nod, and cast his "aye" vote.
According to the GJ Sentinel, Udall and Bennet dispute Milbank's account. The Sentinel notes that it is a classic "he said, they said" situation but tries to promote Milbank's credibility. Not knowing Milbank and not having read much of his work, I make no judgements. I will say as I did the day the vote was taken that after looking at the vote total and the names of those who voted yea, I had to wonder if the two Republicans who voted no gave at least two Democrats cover to vote the other way knowing there were not enough votes to pass the amendment.

I received a reply from Senator Mark Warner's office the day after I sent him a thank you email for supporting gun owners and the Thune Amendment. Warner was one of the Democrats that I had to wonder if he got a pass. While the Senator racked up a very good record on pro-rights legislation when he served as Virginia's governor, he has in the past supported the Clinton Gun Ban, handgun rationing, and a five day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun. Some of these positions were when he served as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia over 16 years ago but support for the Clinton Gun Ban was as recent as 2001. I will however take the Senator at his word when he said in his response to me that he thought Virginia's laws on concealed carry would make it unlikely that someone from out of state would carry in Virginia and commit a crime. This at least tells me that the Senator (or more appropriately, his staffer) understood the amendment and what it would have done - hold out of state permit holders to Virginia law while carrying here.

But the Sentinel article and Milbank's column does give us more food for thought as to the true number of Senators on whom we can count when the going gets touch on gun rights.

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