Frustrated Democrats call for GOP help on federal gun laws after mass school shootings
WASHINGTON — US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday implored Senate Republicans to work with Democrats to pass a bipartisan gun control bill after a mass shooting at a school killing 19 children and two teachers in Texas died, died.
Tuesday’s massacre was the second deadliest mass school shooting since another at Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago.
“Please, please, please, damn it, put yourself in the shoes of those parents,” Schumer said in the Senate.
“Perhaps that thought – putting yourself in the shoes of those parents instead of in the arms of the NRA – could free you from the NRA’s vise-like grip.”
Schumer conceded that it was unlikely 10 Republicans would join the Democrats to pass any type of legislation in the evenly divided Senate, a sentiment echoed by many in his party. It would take 60 votes to push gun legislation forward.
“It’s going to fail,” said Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, according to reports from the Capitol Hill pool.
Filibuster could be a major hurdle for background check bills in the US Senate
Schumer, a New York Democrat, took a procedural step to begin a debate on two background check bills with an opportunity to vote on the bills.
The two bills he placed on the Senate calendar passed the House of Representatives last year. They are HR 8which “establishes new background check requirements for transfers of firearms between private parties” and HR 1446which “increases the time … that a federal firearms licensee must wait to receive a full background check before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.”
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But the filibuster is a hurdle to Democratic action on guns in the Senate. Two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have previously said they have no plans to change their position on changing the 60-vote threshold required by the filibuster.
“I don’t think there are 10 Republicans on this issue who are serious about the things that make us safer,” Booker said.
Less than a week ago, Booker reinstated the Federal Firearm Licensing Act, which requires individuals to obtain a gun license from the Justice Department before purchasing or receiving a gun.
President Joe Biden spoke Tuesday night about the school shootings at the White House, urging Congress to pass sane gun laws and blaming the gun industry.
“Weapons manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which is what brings them the biggest and biggest profit,” he said. “For God’s sake we must have the courage to stand our ground against the industry.”
Biden will visit the site of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, later this week.
Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, said after the Texas shooting, “It’s (expletive) insane not to do anything about it,” according to Capitol Hill Pool reports.
Kelly’s wife Gabby Giffords is a former congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt when she was shot dead while meeting with voters. She now heads a gun safety advocacy group.
A handful of Republicans in the Senate express support for red flag legislation
A handful of Senate Republicans have expressed support for “red flag” legislation, which has been used to prevent mass shootings, suicides and domestic violence homicides by allowing courts or law enforcement to identify a person in distress to temporarily withdraw a firearm.
Various states have such laws — many were passed after the 2018 Parkland School shooting in Florida — but it’s unclear if there would be enough bipartisan agreement to include red flag provisions in federal law.
The Biden administration was in charge the Justice Department last year to circulate a model red flag law to the states. The District of Columbia and 19 states have red flag laws.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said that while red flag laws could be useful, he pointed out that New York has some of the strictest red flag laws and that the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, could not prevent.
“I don’t know if there’s a fix here,” Blunt said, according to reports from the Capitol Hill pool.
In Buffalo, a white supremacist killed 10 black people at a convenience store in a predominantly black neighborhood. The attack was based on “The Great Replacement Theory,” a racist conspiracy theory that says immigrants and people of color will lead to the extinction of the white race. according to the National Immigration Forum.
Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, said he supports red flag laws, noting that Florida has its own.
“People who harm themselves, who threaten to harm themselves or anyone else, should not act,” he said, according to reports from the Capitol Hill pool.
House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, called The House of Representatives is set to take up Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath’s red-flag legislation in June, which would “prohibit those who pose a threat to themselves or others from legally owning a firearm.”
But Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, argued that guns were not the problem in the Texas school shootings, but a mental health issue.
“I’m very sorry, but guns are not the issue,” he said, according to Capitol Hill pool reports. “People are the problem, that’s where it starts…we’ve always had guns and we will continue to have guns.”
Lobbying for gun rights
Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America spent a record nearly $16 million on lobbying in 2021, campaign funding records show.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook mass school shooting that killed 20 children ages 6 and 7 and six school employees, the amount of money spent on lobbying by gun rights groups has more than doubledfrom $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2013, according to analysis by campaign finance watchdog Open Secrets.
The NRA spent nearly $5 million lobbying Congress in 2021. According to OpenSecrets. For the first quarter of 2022, the NRA spent $650,000 lobbying Congress. According to OpenSecrets.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, did not comment Wednesday in the Senate on whether Republicans would work with Democrats to pass a gun control bill.
Instead, he offers his condolences to the families and community of Uvalde, who have lost 19 children and two teachers to gun violence.
He described the shooter as “mentally deranged” and called the act “senselessly evil”.
The shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, legally purchased two AR-15 rifles days before the attack, Texas law enforcement officials said.
Schumer returned to the Senate after McConnell’s speech and asked the Senate whether Republicans would join Democrats in passing the domestic terrorism bill that goes to the vote Thursday. The bill would allow for the creation of special offices within the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate and monitor domestic terrorism.
The bill passed the House of Representatives, 222-203, with only one Republican in the House voting with the Democrat, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Schumer said. “We need action”
Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said he was frustrated that the NRA and Republicans didn’t support background checks because they have done so in the past.
“I don’t know what the hell has changed, but I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed — mass shootings,” he said, according to Capitol Hill pool reports.
When a reporter asked about legislation banning assault weapons — like those used in Texas and in most mass shootings — Tester said there was no way that kind of legislation would happen unless Congress could pass background checks.
“You can’t do that,” he said. “Children were killed yesterday. For heaven’s sake, let’s talk about what’s feasible, not what someone wants.”