Senators talk expanded gun background checks, red flag laws
- United States
A bipartisan group of senators is considering how Congress should respond to the horrific shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, restarting gun control talks that have broken down many times before.
Senators have narrowed the discussion to a few ideas, many of them based on legislation they have been working on for years, such as expanded background checks or red flag laws that keep guns away from people who could harm.
It is uncertain if the group can come to a consensus, and even if they do, winning enough votes from Republicans could prove difficult, as most do not want to see changes in the nation's gun laws.
Democrats would need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster and get a bill through the 50-50 Senate.
"Odds are against us, but we owe it to parents and kids to try," tweeted Murphy, who has been a lead advocate for stricter gun control since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012.
A look at the proposals under consideration and others that are not: RED FLAG LAWS Senators emerging from a bipartisan meeting on Thursday were talking about the possibility of incentivizing states to pass red flag laws that take firearms away from people who may harm themselves or others.
Many states have adopted red flag laws, including Florida, which passed a law after the Parkland high school shooting in 2018, and Maine, which has a "yellow flag" law that requires a medical professional to sign off before guns were removed.
Republicans are unlikely to get on board with a red flag statute for the entire country.
As an alternative, they are discussing whether federal grants could coax states into implementing such flag laws, an idea explored in past years by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Blumenthal, who is working with Graham on the compromise proposal, said the ''complicated and challenging part" will be figuring out what the standards are for removing guns from a person who is flagged.
Still, Blumenthal said, "there is a powerful emotional element to the red flag statute that gives it momentum, especially after Uvalde and Buffalo, where the shooter indicated very strong signs that he was dangerous".
The shooter in New York had been reported by his school, but the state's red flag law was not triggered.
The House is planning to pass its version of red flag legislation when it returns from a two-week recess on June 6.
EXPANDED BACKGROUND CHECKS Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have been trying for almost a decade to pass expanded background checks for all commercial gun sales, including at gun shows and on the Internet.
Under current law, background checks are required only when guns are purchased from federally licensed dealers.
The idea has wide public support, even among many gun owners, but the two senators have faced resistance from congressional Republicans who don't want any changes, along with groups like the National Rifle Association.
Various versions of the proposal have been repeatedly defeated in the Senate, including in 2013 after the Newtown massacre and in 2016 after a shooting in which 49 people were killed at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub.
The House passed legislation last year that would expand background checks to almost all sales, including private sales.
The senators have been in talks since then about crafting a version that could pass their chamber, but they have yet to agree.
Manchin says the House version goes too far and could interfere with informal sales between people who know each other.
Toomey said on Thursday that the measure doesn't have enough support to pass right now, "but I hope we'll get there".
SCHOOL SECURITY Republicans who have traditionally opposed gun control have seized on the idea of "hardening" schools, giving money for more resources, law enforcement officers, or even arming teachers.
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota suggested this week that Congress "promote direct funding for local units, to be able to have the resources available to add additional protections to offer a deterrence for these individuals".
Murphy said on Thursday that he is "open" to adding funds for school security and that the working group is looking at what could be done along those lines. But Democrats have adamantly opposed arming teachers, and they say money for security is not enough.
'CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE' A second bill passed by the House last year would extend the review period for background checks from three to 10 days.
The FBI said after the Charleston shooting that a background check examiner never saw the shooter's previous arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed in state criminal history records, and the gun dealer was legally permitted to complete the transaction after three days.
Clyburn and other supporters of the legislation say it would fix that problem.
Republicans have overwhelmingly opposed the legislation, saying it could delay purchases for lawful gun owners.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN An assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s expired 10 years later, and Democrats have not been able to muster the votes to pass another one.
Biden last year proposed a ban on assault weapons and many Democrats believe that would be one of the most effective ways to curb mass shootings since they almost always involve those types of weapons.
But a ban has almost no support among Republicans and has not been a part of the discussions so far.
"There is a common denominator we can find," Murphy said. "There is a place where we can achieve agreement."
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)