The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 was defeated in the Senate last Thursday after it failed to garner the necessary 60 votes that would have allowed it to proceed. The bill, which had been voted through a procedural motion just days earlier by a 82-12 margin, was significant in that it was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the bill would have provided states with the ability to build more public shooting ranges, increase access for sportsmen and women on public land, and prevented the banning of lead ammunition.
“This historic legislation is simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation,” the NSSF stated.
The bill became a hotbed of controversy when both Democrats and Republicans attempted to add gun-related amendments to the act. Among the 81 proposed amendments were provisions that would have overturned Washington, DC’s ban on “high-capacity” magazines and “assault weapons” as well as expanded the right to buy or transport firearms and ammunition across state lines. Republicans also pushed for amendments that allowed gun owners to carry weapons into certain federal buildings and limit when a veteran can be denied gun ownership due to mental illness. On the flip side, Democrats advocated amendments that would expand the background check system, deny gun purchases to those under temporary protective orders, and increase penalties for straw purchasers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked the amendments, which he blamed on Republicans attempting to derail the Sportsmen’s Act.
“They want amendments because they want to kill the bill, like they’ve tried to kill everything in the last six years,” he told the Washington Times.
In turn, Republicans criticized Reid for what they view as the majority leader attempting to muzzle the Senate.
“We’ve never operated like that,” Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told McClatchy’s Washington Bureau. “That is a new normal that Harry Reid is trying to sell as being a Senate tradition.”
The NRA also made a statement on the failure of the Sportsmen’s Act, which it calls a victim of Reid’s “political agenda.”
“By refusing to allow a reasonable amendment process, Sen. Reid effectively killed this legislation—a bill with substantive measures that would have enriched America’s hunting and sporting heritage,” Chris Cox, the director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
The initial reaction among sportsmen and women was of surprise. The bill’s popularity and bipartisan support led many to believe that the act would have an easy time maneuvering through the Senate.
“There is no such thing as a slam dunk in the legislative arena but this certainly had all the makings of one after Monday’s 82-12 procedural vote,” Mark Holyoak, Director of Communications at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, told OutdoorHub. “Then the wheels came off. We are really disappointed for sportsmen and women because they are the biggest losers—by far! So are conservation, hunting, fishing, and public access.”
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), who introduced the bill along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said that she did not intend on giving up after the Thursday vote.
“I believe the Senate should have considered sportsmen-related amendments, including those dealing with gun issues important to sportsmen and women, and I am disappointed that politics prevented us from reaching an agreement this week,” she stated. “However, I will continue working with Senator Murkowski and my colleagues to find a path forward so that this bill that benefits hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts in North Carolina and across the nation doesn’t fall victim to political posturing.”
Image courtesy the Office of Senator Kay Hagan