Interesting votes yesterday on the various amendments to legislation following the Orlando shooting.
Senator Cornyn (R-TX) proffered an amendment that would "flag" a person on the government's terror watch list. It would impose a 72-hour period where the government could make its case or not. After 72 hours, the sale would be allowed to proceed. As the Dallas Morning News explains:
A test vote on Cornyn’s proposal – which would have triggered a three-day investigation into the pending buyer – failed 53-47, with Sen. Ted Cruz supporting Cornyn’s amendment. The proposed amendments to the Department of Justice spending bill needed 60 votes to proceed.Senator Feinstein was critical of the amendment.
In the Senate Monday, Feinstein attacked Cornyn’s amendment for using the probable cause standard in order to deny a gun purchase, noting that, under his plan, the person denied the sale must be granted a hearing within 72 hours.I don't want a terrorist to have a gun at all. I believe that we can agree on that. Personally, I don't want a terrorist in the US, but I realize that it happens occasionally. What Feinstein wants is the total ban, the whole enchilada. What Cornyn's amendment did is to cause the government to make the case, and to do it in a rational time period.
“This is nearly impossible to achieve within 72 hours, and if it isn’t achieved, the terrorist gets the gun,” she said.
Feinstein, of course, says that 72 hours isn't long enough to complete the investigation, but in my mind, if a person is on the secret terror watch list, the government should already have completed the investigation. That should have been done before the person's name was added to the list.
The really interesting thing is that nearly every Democrat voted against the Cornyn amendment. According to the Senate Press Gallery:
6:37 p.m. Cloture fails on the Cornyn amendment 53-47.That's interesting. It seems that with the exception of two Democrat senators, the rest of that party is in favor of letting the government breach a constitutional right without having the government establish probable cause.
Senators in favor: 51 Republicans, 2 Democrats (Donnelly, Manchin)
Senators against: 42 Democrats, 3 Republicans (Collins, Flake and Kirk) 2 Independents (King and Sanders).
Every cop on every beat in every city or county of the US understand probable cause. Probable Cause is the reasonable, articulable, belief that a crime has been, or is about to be committed. It's really a simple standard, understood universally, and not a high bar to clear. It seems to me that if the government has my name on a super-secret, double-probation watch list, it should already have cleared that hurdle.
Police in every locality all over the country use Probable Cause every day. It's not too much to ask that the federal government adopt is as well.