Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) Water Resources Development Act, which isn't an especially controversial piece of legislation, has been slowly working its way through the legislative process, and finally reached the Senate floor this week. That's when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) realized what the bill on water resources was missing: new gun rights.
Yes, Coburn initially pushed for two amendments to Boxer's bill: one that would have created a registry of government firearms, and another to expand the right to carry firearms in areas controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including areas that are currently off limits to guns.
Why would Coburn want a registry of government firearms? It's apparently part of some conspiracy theory -- Republican lawmakers just can't get enough of them -- though it ultimately doesn't matter. As of this afternoon, as "a goodwill gesture," Coburn pulled the amendment.
But he kept pushing the other one, with the blessing of the NRA.
Areas controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- such as hundreds of the nation's lakes and thousands of campsites and miles of trails -- are gun-free zones, even if the state where the land is located allows concealed weapons. Coburn's amendment, however, would grant precedence to state laws and permit people to carry guns in some of these places.
For her part, Boxer said her legislation has nothing to do with firearms, so Coburn's amendment should be considered as part of some other bill. The California Democrat also noted that the measure might allow loaded firearms to be carried near infrastructure such as dams or reservoirs, which in turn could create national security risks.
So, how'd it do? The amendment ended up with 56 votes, thanks in part to the support of several Democrats, but was nevertheless four votes shy of the 60 it needed.
It's just another day in the Senate.