An Upset On Guns

It was a surprise on Wednesday when gun rights backers lost a vote for the first time in this Congress, as the Senate blocked a plan that would let people with concealed weapons permits carry guns in states with similar laws.

The vote was 58-39 in favor of the plan, two votes short of the sixty needed to overcome parliamentary delays from Democrats.

It was the first time in four gun-related votes this year that gun rights supporters had not mustered over 61 votes.

Who switched?  Well, that's actually a complicated answer.

You could blame it on the two Republicans who voted against the plan, Sen. Richard Lugar  (R-IN) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH).

Or you could blame it on a number of Democrats who had voted for previous gun provisions, but didn't vote for this one.

Twenty Democrats voted for the plan, and that would have been twenty-one had Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) been here for the vote.

Among those voting no who seemed notable, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO).

Also deserving a mention was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) who voted against the plan, and then changed his vote to yes at the last possible minute, though that did not affect the outcome.

Leahy's no vote was interesting, because he had raised the issue of the Second Amendment the other day in the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

But there was more than that at work.  Leahy was evidently irked at lead sponsor Sen. John Thune (R-SD) for pushing the amendment on a major defense bill, after Leahy had already agreed to hold a hearing on the issue in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So a big chuckle arose from the press gallery a few hours after the vote, when a press release arrived from that panel.

"NOTICE OF SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING CANCELLATION," read the headline, nothing that the "hearing on 'Examining S. 845, The "Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009" which had been set for today - July 23 - had been cancelled.

In other words, if Thune had waited, he might have gotten some more support.

As I said above, it was the first setback for the Gun Lobby this year, but it certainly doesn't really change the landscape, as they still have the advantage in both the House and Senate on Second Amendment issues.

But Wedneday's vote shows there are limits to what they can offer and get approved in terms of gun rights provisions.