Half-True
Warren
"54 senators said, let's do background checks, let's get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators it failed because of the filibuster."

Elizabeth Warren on Thursday, September 12th, 2019 in a Democratic debate in Houston

Sen. Elizabeth Warren conflated votes on assault weapons, background checks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that while the majority of Americans want tighter gun control laws related to registration or banning assault weapons, that doesn’t happen because Congress is beholden to the gun industry.

"And unless we're willing to address that head on and roll back the filibuster we're not going to get anything done on guns," Warren said during the Democratic debate in Houston. "I was in the United States Senate when 54 senators said let's do background checks, let's get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators it failed because of the filibuster."

Not all of those points are accurate. Her campaign staff told us Warren meant to refer only to background checks. Fewer than 50 senators supported banning assault weapons.

Gun legislation votes following Sandy Hook

In April 2013, a few months after the Sandy Hook shooting, lawmakers took up votes on multiple gun control measures. All of them failed.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, teamed up with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on the legislation, which came to be known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment. 

The amendment called for expanding the checks to gun shows and internet sales, but not requiring them of family members and friends giving or selling guns to each other. It was seen as a compromise to replace a stricter measure from Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The compromise amendment still fell short in a mostly partisan vote, when it was defeated 54-46. Procedurally, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

On the same day, an assault weapons ban measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., failed when it received 40 votes. Fifteen members of her own Democratic Party (plus one independent) voted against the ban.

At the time, Democrats held 53 seats in the Senate, two independents caucused with the Democrats, and 45 senators were Republicans.

A spokeswoman for Warren said that her reference to 54 votes was for that Manchin-Toomey amendment.

In a Medium essay in August, Warren wrote that the Senate voted down an assault weapons ban and "rejected a background checks proposal, even though 54 Senators from both parties voted for it, because of a right-wing-filibuster. These were the bare minimum steps we needed to take. And six years later, Congress still hasn’t done a thing."

Our ruling

Warren said "54 senators said let's do background checks, let's get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators it failed because of the filibuster."

Warren was referring to votes on gun control legislation on April 17, 2013. A background check amendment failed when 54 senators voted for it, falling short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster threat. However, the vote to ban assault weapons failed with only 40 votes.

We rate this statement Half True.