South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott voted along party lines on Monday evening, as four amendments intended to keep guns out of the hands of terror suspects in the wake of the Orlando shooting failed in the Senate.
The failed amendments included Republican proposals to boost funding for the national background check system and Democratic measures intended to allow the Justice Department to ban gun sales to people whose names appear on federal terror watch lists. The second Democratic amendment proposed expanding background checks to include online and private gun sales. None of the measures received the bipartisan support they needed to advance.
Both South Carolina senators are card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association, which endorsed their congressional races, and have earned “A” ratings for their voting record against gun control legislation.
The vote comes eight days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured after a gunman attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando.
On Monday evening, Scott said that he voted against the Democratic amendments because they did not protect the rights of Americans who were wrongly added to the terror watch list.
“As I did last December, today I voted to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists,” he said in a statement. “The amendment I voted for would make our nation safer, while also protecting our due process and Second Amendment rights.”
Graham and Scott voted against a similar amendment in December 2015, following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which would have prevented individuals on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms.
There were hints of a possible bipartisan compromise on Monday. Graham is working on a bill being developed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, along with Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would ban gun sales to the roughly 800 Americans on the no-fly list. That number is significantly smaller than the thousands of individuals on the terror watch lists that were covered under the Democratic proposals under consideration on Monday.
Ayotte took to the Senate floor ahead of Monday’s votes and asked her colleagues to consider the bill as a compromise.
“If you’re too dangerous to board a commercial plane, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun,” she said. “It’s simple as that and people on both sides of the aisle I think agree on that in principle.”
This comes after Graham, an outspoken critic of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, surprised many by praising him for meeting with the NRA to discuss blocking people on the no-fly list from buying guns.
“If you’re on a no-fly list, if you’ve been selected for extra screening because of your behavior, you present a danger or a threat, then I don’t think you should be able to buy a gun,” Graham said on CNN last week. “But you should have a way to challenge the government’s accusation against you.”
Senators Graham and Scott are wrong to oppose these two proposals, and South Carolinians know it.
Jaime Harrison, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair
Graham also proposed legislation in 2013 to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
South Carolina Democrats expressed their frustration with Graham and Scott’s votes, pointing out that just a year ago their state dealt with a violent mass shooting of their own in Charleston that left nine people dead.
“I am deeply disappointed that our two Republican senators continue to put South Carolinians' lives at needless risk by refusing to support eminently sensible gun safety measures,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement after the vote.
“Our state is all too familiar with the horrors of gun violence, and the vast majority of our citizens support taking steps consistent with the Second Amendment that would significantly reduce the scourge,” he said.