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Mr. LEE. Madam President, for several weeks now Washington and the rest of the country have been debating several new gun control proposals. Along with a number of my colleagues, including the minority leader, I have declared my intention to resist an immediate vote on any new restrictions that would serve primarily to limit the freedoms of law-abiding citizens rather than reduce violent crime in America.
Unfortunately, the current gun control proposals would do just that. More than 2 weeks ago, we informed the majority leader that we will exercise our procedural right to require a 60-vote threshold in order to bring this legislation to the floor. We have taken this step under our Senate rules and procedures for three principal reasons.
First, the Senate serves an important function in our Republic by encouraging deliberation and making it more difficult for a temporary majority to impose its will unilaterally. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate's rules and procedures allow for meaningful debate and help ensure that a bare majority of Senators cannot impose controversial legislation on the American people without robust debate, discussion, and broad-based and bipartisan consensus.
Contrary to the statements made by the President and by some of my friends across the aisle and even a few from within my own caucus, we have no intention of preventing debate or votes. Quite the opposite. By objecting to the motion to proceed, we guarantee that the Senate and the American people would have at least 3 additional days to assess and evaluate exactly how this particular bill might affect the rights of law-abiding citizens and whether it might have any significant impact on violent crime.
Already we have seen consensus against passing any new gun legislation--at least not without broad bipartisan support.
During the recent budget debate, I offered an amendment to establish a two-thirds vote requirement for the passage of any new gun legislation. Six Democratic Senators voted with a nearly united Republican caucus to support my amendment by a vote of 50 to 49.
That vote demonstrated that a bare majority of Senators, including at least six Democrats, believe that new gun legislation should have broad bipartisan support in the Senate before it is passed and before it has the opportunity to become law.
A 60-vote threshold will help ensure that new gun laws are not forced through the Senate with the narrow support of just one party.
Second, this debate is about a lot more than just magazine clips and pistol grips. It is about the purpose of the second amendment and why our constitutionally protected right to self-defense is an essential part of self-government.
At its core, the second amendment helps ensure that individuals and local communities can serve as the first line of defense against threats to our persons and our property. Any limitation on this fundamental right of self-defense makes us more dependent on our government for our own protection.
Government cannot be everywhere at all times, so the practical effect of limiting our individual rights is to make us less safe. This is troubling to many Americans. Any legislation that would restrict our basic rights to self-defense deserves serious and open debate. Further, as we have seen just today, Washington sometimes prefers to negotiate backroom deals made in secret far from the eyes of the American people rather than engaging in thorough, open, and transparent debate right on the Senate floor.
The day before the majority leader has set the vote to proceed, the bill's critical components are still not there. Right before we have set the vote for the motion to proceed to the bill, we still do not know what these critical components look like. We have no legislative text to evaluate the so-called compromise language on background checks. We have no sense of what amendments, if any amendments at all, might be allowed to be offered.
So requiring a 60-vote threshold helps us solve some of those problems. It helps us ensure that we have a meaningful debate rather than a series of backroom deals to push controversial legislation through Congress with solely a bare majority to back it up.
Finally, many of the provisions we expect to see in the bill are both constitutionally problematic and would serve primarily to limit the freedoms of law-abiding American citizens. Some of the proposals--for example, universal background checks--would allow the Federal Government to surveil law-abiding citizens who exercise their constitutional rights.
One of the provisions we expect to see in the bill, based on what we saw in the Judiciary Committee on which I sit, would allow the Attorney General of the United States to promulgate regulations that could lead to a national registry system for guns, something my constituents in Utah are very concerned about, and understandably so.
You see, the Federal Government has no business monitoring where or how often we go to church, what books and newspapers we read, whom we vote for, our health conditions, what we ate for breakfast, and the details of our private lives, including our lawful exercise of rights protected by the second amendment and other provisions of the Bill of Rights.
Such limitations may, of course, at times make it harder for the government to do what it believes it needs to do. But we have to remember, the Constitution was not written to maximize or protect the convenience of our government. The Constitution was written to protect individual liberty, and thankfully so. We must not narrow the application of constitutional protections in haste, nor should we allow a bare majority to jeopardize the basic rights of the American people, rights protected in the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
The Senate and the American people are engaged in an important debate. I look forward to this debate. I hope others will join me and my colleagues in demanding that our discussions take place in full view of the American people.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. LEE. I thank the Senator from Virginia for his cooperation in allowing me this time.
The President of the United States has spent the last several weeks evoking the tragedy of Sandy Hook and highlighting the voices of the victims in an effort to promote his gun control proposals. He has not explained to the American people how any of these new gun control measures would have prevented that or any other terrible tragedy or how any of these measures would reduce gun violence in any measurable way. Instead, his proposals would serve primarily to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Recently, I launched a project called Protect2A, which is an attempt to reach out to those who are reluctant to see changes to our Bill of Rights, our Bill of Rights eroded, and believe Members of Congress should be doing everything in their power to protect the second amendment rights of citizens. This is also as we should be protecting all the rights protected by our Constitution.
I am pleased to announce the response to Protect2A has been overwhelming. In less than 2 days, we have received well over 1,000 responses on my Web site. The vast majority of them recognized that the President's proposal will not make them safer but will, rather, result in limiting their rights as law-abiding citizens.
It is with this in mind I would now like to ensure their voices have become an important part of this debate. I have several quotes from Americans across the country who oppose these measures and wish Senators to stand up for them and their constitutional rights.
Roger, from my home State of Utah, writes as follows:
As a veteran, I've had too many ``brothers'' and ``sisters'' make sacrifices to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Their blood will not be in vain. While I believe our rights are not granted by government, I believe that documentation of these rights in the United States Constitution has helped us maintain our freedoms. Why is the Second Amendment important to me? Because without it, the rest of our rights can simply be wiped away.
Jim from Louisiana writes as follows:
I lived through the Los Angeles riots. My wife and I were living in Silver Lake. For 5 days we watched the warm glow of businesses being burned on two sides. For 5 days we never saw a law enforcement officer. We were on our own. My wife and I were unarmed. The couple across the street had a pair of shotguns, and the elderly gentleman next to them had a .38 service revolver from his days in the LAPD. After it became clear that law enforcement had abandoned the citizens of Los Angeles, we took shifts watching the street and who was coming and going. Our neighbors brought us coffee in the middle of the night, a night that was lit with the flames of burning buildings. Twice cars came up our street, saw us armed, and turned around. I have no doubt that the drivers had things on their minds other than getting home to loved ones.
As soon as I could, I went out and bought my first handgun. I will not be disarmed. I will not be a victim. And I will not let my boys be victims. Legal or not, I am giving them my guns as they get mature enough to use them. If our government is so out of touch they will make law-abiding citizens criminals, it's just something my family will have to deal with. But we will not disarm.
David, from Missouri, wrote the following:
I am a handicapped 78-year-old male living alone. I have applied for and received a conceal-carry permit, which I feel is my Second Amendment right. I hope and pray that I never have to use my firearm, but will if challenged to do so.
Please don't treat the subject of the Second Amendment like you did with my health care, by passing legislation that you didn't even read.
Carolyn from New Jersey writes:
Protection of the 2A is necessary in order to preserve the integrity of our Constitution. The ``ruling elite'' cannot pick and choose which amendments they like, and which they don't. We, the people, are sovereign citizens, and we are protected by the Constitution.
Annie, from Georgia, writes the following:
Dear Senator, how I wish we as a civilized nation did not have to go through this in order to defend our 2nd Amendment that has been in place for all these years. It is very important that we the citizens keep our weapons to be able to defend ourselves from criminals as well as to send a message to the government that we are not under any dictatorship. We are a free country, and we are ready to defend our position against anyone who tries to take away what rights we have. To me, personally, my guns are my defense to protect my family, and I have had to make use of them for that reason in the past and will do it again since the police cannot be available fast enough ..... Please protect our rights, because once we lose this amendment, we are defenseless and others will follow. I do not want to live again in a country where citizens have no ``voice,'' where there is no democracy and the people live in fear of what they say. I am a legal citizen of the USA, by choice. I am an American, and I love this country like my own. Thanks so much for what you are doing. Let our voices be heard.
Mr. President these are just a few of the excerpts. I ask unanimous consent to have the rest of these statements printed in the Record.
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