WASHINGTON: A group of senators from both parties is talking about how Congress must respond to the terrible shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children & two teachers were killed. They are trying to get gun control talks going again, which have failed many times before.
Even though they know it will be hard, Democrats & Republicans say they hope to agree on laws that could help stop mass shootings in the US Ten days before the Uvalde shooting, a gunman shot inside a racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing Black people.
Senators have shortened the discussion down to a few ideas, many of which are based on laws they have been working on for years, like expanding background checks and red flag laws which keep guns away from people who could do damage. The group of 10 senators, led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, hopes to come up with a plan during the Senate’s next break & have it ready for a vote just at the beginning of June.
It’s not clear if the group will be able to agree on anything, and even if they do, it might be hard to get enough votes from Republicans, since most of them don’t want to see changes to the country’s gun laws. In the 50-50 Senate, the Democrats would need ten Republican votes to stop a filibuster & get a bill passed.
“The odds are against us, but we owe it to kids and parents to try,” tweeted Murphy, who had been a leading advocate for stricter gun control since 2012, when 20 children and six teachers were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
A look just at plans that are being considered and the ones that aren’t:
Red Flag Laws
Senators who just got out of a bipartisan meeting talked Thursday about giving states an incentive to pass “red flag” laws that take guns away from people who might hurt themselves or others.
Many states have “red flag” laws, like Florida, which passed one after the Parkland high school shooting in 2018. Maine has a “yellow flag” law that says guns can’t be taken away without a doctor’s signature. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, has tried to get the federal government to do something similar.
A red flag law for the whole country is not likely to get the support of Republicans. After the meeting, Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is also part of the group, said that wouldn’t work “no matter what colour.”
As an alternative, they are talking about whether federal grants could get states to pass such flag laws. This is an idea that Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., & Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have looked into in the past. Blumenthal is working with Graham on a compromise proposal. He said that figuring out the rules for taking guns away from people who have been flagged will be “complicated and hard.”
Still, Blumenthal said, “There is a strong emotional element towards the red flag statute which gives it momentum, particularly after Uvalde & Buffalo, where the shooter showed very strong signs that he was dangerous.” The shooter in New York was already reported by his school, but the state’s “red flag” law did not go into effect.
When the House comes back from a two-week break on June 6, it plans to throw its own edition of the red flag law.
More Checks On People’s Pasts
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., & Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have been attempting for almost a decade to get expanded background checks for all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows and on the Internet. Under the law as it stands, background checks are only required when a gun is bought from a dealer with a federal licence.
People in general, including many gun owners, like the idea, but the 2 senators have run into trouble from Republicans in Congress who don’t want any changes and from groups like the National Rifle Association. Different versions of the suggestion have been shot down many times in the Senate, including after the Newtown shooting in 2013 and the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016 in which 49 people were killed.
Last year, the House passed a bill that would make background checks happen for almost all sales, even private ones. Since then, the senators have been talking about how to make a version that their chamber could pass, but they haven’t come to an agreement yet. Manchin says that the House version goes too far & could make it hard for people who know each other to buy and sell things on their own.
As part of the Senate working group, Manchin & Toomey, who is retiring this year, are tasked with finding a compromise on their proposal. This may be the last time they do this. Toomey said Thursday that the bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass right now, “but I hope we’ll get there.”