WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected an effort Wednesday to expand the use of firearms on some of the nation’s most frequently visited federal lands, handing gun control advocates a modest success.
The measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, represented one of two efforts Wednesday by gun rights supporters to take the offensive in Congress.
The rejected Senate proposal would have let people use guns for any legal purpose on lands managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees nearly 12 million acres that abound in lakes, rivers, campsites, and hiking trails. Currently, guns on those properties are limited to activities like target-range shooting and hunting, and weapons must be unloaded while being carried to those activities.
Senators voted 56-43 for the proposal by Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
Eleven Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent voted for Coburn’s plan, including all four Democrats who opposed the bipartisan bill expanding required federal background checks to more gun buyers that the Senate rejected three weeks ago.
The background check expansion has been the pillar of President Obama’s effort to restrict guns following December’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Top Democrats and other supporters hope to win fresh support and stage a new vote on background checks, perhaps next month. Advocates hope that voting for Coburn’s proposal might let some senators show voters they support gun rights and give them more leeway to reverse themselves and vote for background checks next time.
Also backing Coburn’s proposal were the two chief authors of the defeated background check measure, Senators Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Toomey.
Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, a supporter of the Manchin-Toomey plan, was the only Republican to vote against expanding gun use on Corps land.