- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In an unexpected defeat for the gun lobby, the Senate on Wednesday voted narrowly to kill an amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed firearms across state lines so long as they have valid permits or permission from their state of residence to do so.

Backers of the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, received 58 votes — two short of the 60 needed to overcome a minority filibuster and add the measure to a defense authorization bill now on the Senate floor. Thirty-nine senators voted against the amendment.

The loss came despite support from a number of pro-gun-rights Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The National Rifle Association also had said it would score the vote in its ranking of lawmakers on gun-rights issues.

Guns have proved a tricky political issue for the Democratic majorities in Congress as leaders in both the House and the Senate have sought to avoid votes on pro-gun measures for fear they would pass with the help of conservative Democrats from Western and Southern states.

Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, attached an amendment to allow people to carry guns in some national parks to a credit-card consumer-protection bill. A Senate amendment that would eliminate most of the District’s gun laws all but killed a voting rights bill for the city as leaders in the House would rather delay the bill than risk passage of the gun provision.

Mr. Thune’s amendment would allow individuals to carry concealed firearms across state lines so long as they obtain valid permits or are legally allowed by their state of residence to do so. He said that, after entering another state, an individual carrying a firearm must follow respect that state’s laws.

Mr. Thune argued his amendment would reduce violence and allow truck drivers and others to protect themselves as they travel.

“Criminals commit crimes; that’s what they do. Criminals kill people. This isn’t directed at criminals — this is directed at law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves,” he said.

The measure was met by stiff opposition from liberal Democrats who, in an interesting twist on traditional politics, warned it would endanger law enforcement officers and infringe on the rights of states to regulate gun policies.

“I believe it completely undermines the rights of state governments,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. “This is not a philosophical debate. It is a matter of life and death.”

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