As we posted on our Facebook wall yesterday afternoon Senator Heidi Heitkamp (and John Hoeven) voted with the National Riflemanufacturers Association (NRA) and 6% of North Dakotans who think violent felons should be able to purchase weapons at gun shows without suffering through the trauma -- or "undue burden" -- of a five minute background check. What I did not write about was the other votes that took place in the Senate yesterday. One vote I think is important is what is called the "Cornyn Race To The Bottom Amendment." That amendment, proposed by John Cornyn (R-Texas), would have forced every state to recognize and accept concealed carry permits from every other state.
Right now, different states can have different requirements for concealed carry permits. Some states have affirmatively elected to participate in reciprocity with other states, but they don't have to. Today, California and New York, for example, might chose to make it harder for people to get permits to carry concealed weapons. They might want, for example, concealed carry permit holders to have some minimum level of intelligence and gun-safety knowledge when it comes to guns. Some other states with radical, right-wing legislatures that are bought-and-paid-for by the big business -- like Mississippi, Alabama or North Dakota -- might want to have laws requiring that every inmate must be handed a concealed carry permit as they are released from prison. They might want laws requiring night clubs to hand out concealed carry permits to every drunk who picks a fight with a bouncer. The Cornyn Race To The Bottom Amendment would have made it so that every state would have to recognize and accept concealed carry permits from the states that chose to hand out concealed carry permits to violent convicts and drunken bar brawlers.
I was interested to learn that MORE U.S. Senators voted to support the Race To The Bottom Amendment than voted to support the background check amendment that's supported by about 90% of all Americans, including 74% of NRA members. The Race To The Bottom amendment died with only 58 votes (to 42 against) as compared to the 54 votes the background check amendment had. Among the Senators voting for the Race To The Bottom Amendment were both of North Dakota's senators: Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven. (Check the roll-call vote by clicking here).
There were seven (7) votes on weapons-related amendments yesterday (April 17, 2013). Heitkamp and Hoeven voted exactly the same way on 6 out of 7 of those gun amendments. The one they disagreed on was Amendment 713 -- the Leahy-Collins Amendment -- which would have punished and deterred strawman gun purchases. Heitkamp voted in favor of that amendment; Hoeven voted against it. I've looked through the amendment and don't see how it addresses the the mental health component Senator Heitkamp referenced in her press release yesterday, but it's possible I'm missing something.
Both Heitkamp and Hoeven will likely preserve their "A" ratings with the Gun Manufacturers' Association. I'm not sure what else they're accomplishing by voting with the 6% of North Dakotans who think it should be easy for violent felons to buy guns at gun shows. Maybe I'll figure it out another day. Or maybe not.