2004: The Last Time the NRA Lost a Vote in Congress

In my story today, I recall that the NRA hasn’t watched a gun control bill pass in either chamber of Congress since 1999, when a 51-50 vote moved a gun control loophole-closing bill out of the Senate. Jim Kessler, senior vice president of policy at the centrist group Third Way, emails to remind me of a more recent loss.

On March 3, 2004, the NRA brought its bill to grant the gun industry immunity from lawsuits to the Senate floor. The bill had more than 55 cosponsors and was certain to get the 60 needed to pass. At our old gun group, Americans for Gun Safety, we succeeded in allowing senators to offer 2 amendments. The first, to close the gun show loophole, passed 53-46. The second, to renew the assault weapons ban, passed 52-47. The NRA was so stunned that these amendments passed that they sent messages via blackberry to Senators on the floor to renounce support for the immunity bill. The bill failed 8 to 90.

The NRA doesn’t lose often, but they do lose. And it was glorious.

And it sort of sunk into a memory hole, but it remains relevant. I’ve been asking various senators and members of Congress whether they’d be open to any new gun legislation, of any kind. “I voted for [the assault weapons ban] in 2004,” said Sen. Susan Collins. I asked whether that meant she’d vote for a new law. “I already answered that question,” she said.