WASHINGTON — Responding to outrage over his vote to advance gun legislation past a procedural hurdle, Sen. Tom Coburn said Friday that debate on the bill was necessary to address gaps allowing “dangerous people” to acquire firearms.
“Every act of gun violence not only takes away the rights — and sometimes lives — of victims but also chips away at the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Coburn said in a lengthy statement.
“Responsible gun owners should be leading the effort to make sure firearms are used for the purpose our founders' intended — self-defense and freedom, not mayhem and murder.”
Coburn, R-Muskogee, received a barrage of negative comments on his Facebook page and at his offices in Washington and Oklahoma for his vote Thursday to allow debate on a bill proposing to expand background checks and crack down on gun trafficking.
Many of the Facebook posts were laced with obscenities and called him a “traitor.”
Others were a bit more diplomatic but still critical of Coburn's decision to join 15 other Republicans in voting to advance the bill rather than filibuster.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, voted against moving the bill to debate.
The bill advanced by a vote of 68-31, and votes on amendments could come next week.
A man named Mike Gilbert, of Oklahoma City, wrote this post on Coburn's Facebook page: “Mr Coburn I am a 63 year old Vietnam Vet. Worked 40 years and paid my taxes. Gov. Fallin signed the bill for open carry. I continue to carry mine under cover but I thank her for standing up for our 2nd Amendment.
“I ask that you do not sell us down the river. If you give an inch the left wing will take a mile. I supported you in the past. I will no longer. Please stand with Oklahoma as a proud 2nd Amendment state. I ask that you give in no farther.”
And another named Wes Morris, of Tulsa, said, “It's a damn good thing you are term limiting yourself. Although I would love to see you get hammered in a primary.
“What about “Shall Not Infringe” do you not understand? Your next step should be to run for “Community Organizer” in Chicago. Then you can follow in your idols footsteps and you two love birds can have dinner together every night. Thanks for selling out the American People, and Oklahoma.”
Many of those complaining said they would work against his re-election, obviously unaware that Coburn imposed a two-term limit on himself and won't be running for office again.
In the statement, Coburn said, “Some have even suggested a more pro-Second Amendment Republican should run against me in the primary next election. I hate to disappoint them but I respect the will of the people so much I have primaried myself by term-limiting myself.”
Coburn has previously been accused by some Democrats of being too staunch a defender of gun ownership rights.
He fought a long battle to ensure U.S. military veterans weren't denied the right to purchase firearms if they sought mental health services.
And he authored legislation that was approved in 2009 allowing people to carry loaded firearms in national parks.
On Friday, Coburn said “the most onerous and blatantly unconstitutional provisions the gun control lobby favors,” including a ban on so-called assault weapons and a limit on magazine sizes, would never pass the Senate.
“What is up for consideration is how to improve a broken system that literally allows illegal aliens, drug traffickers, child molesters, rapists, felons, members of al-Qaida cells and mentally deranged persons to buy firearms,” he said.
“If you believe the Second Amendment gives those people the right to arm themselves, then we have an irreconcilable difference of opinion.”
Coburn participated for weeks in talks to fashion a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks to gun shows and other non-dealer transactions. He eventually dropped out because of his concerns that government records would be kept of the sales.
He said last week that the agreement reached wouldn't work.
He said Friday he would offer his own proposal to create an online system allowing a consumer to print out a pass showing they weren't on a list of prohibited buyers.
That system, he said, wouldn't treat people as guilty until proven innocent and wouldn't subject them to new fees.
Coburn said Americans have “a responsibility to do their homework and understand what is and is not under consideration. My office is prepared to answer as many questions as possible as clearly and quickly as we can.”