Bipartisan Gun Measures Pile Up in Senate With No Plans to Act
(Bloomberg) -- Bipartisan proposals to address gun violence and school safety keep piling up in the U.S. Senate, but there are no plans to vote on them.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut on Thursday became the latest to offer a measure responding to last month’s attack at a Florida high school that killed 17. Their plan would let federal courts temporarily take guns away from people found to be at risk to themselves or others.
There was ample indication that the accused Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, intended to commit violence with firearms, they said.
“We tell our citizens, if you see something, say something,” Graham said at a news conference in Washington. “Shouldn’t it be incumbent on our government to do something?”
The measure adds to the list of proposals introduced since the Feb. 14 shooting, most of them modest measures due to opposition from the National Rifle Association that holds sway over majority-party Republicans and some Senate Democrats on the ballot in November.
President Donald Trump last week whipsawed lawmakers by embracing tough gun controls, including raising the minimum purchase age for a rifle to 21, only to back down after a dinner meeting with the NRA’s top lobbyist.
‘Never That Easy’
Still, the president expressed optimism Thursday at the White House on passing some form of legislation such as broadening the background check requirement for gun buyers.
"Background checks are moving along in Congress," Trump said while adding, "It’s never that easy" to pass such measures.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters last week that most Republicans in the chamber want progress on “school safety” measures they can agree on, but he didn’t commit to providing floor time. He said nothing about the issue Tuesday after Senate Republicans met privately to discuss the chamber’s agenda.
A two-week Senate recess begins March 24, and there are no plans before then to hold a debate on guns in the chamber. McConnell’s press secretary, David Popp, said Thursday that before then, the Senate will consider bills to revise banking regulation and combat sex trafficking, vote on a broad government spending bill and perhaps confirm one or two Trump administration nominations.
The House is planning a debate as early as next week only on a narrow bill providing grants to train law enforcement and school staff to spot warning signs of school violence and intervene.
‘March for Our Lives’
That means it’s all but certain that a planned “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington on March 24, organized in part by student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, attack, will occur without real action in Congress on gun laws.
Graham said Thursday it will be up to Trump to help push to debate forward. He and Blumenthal said that the president last week voiced some support for the type of “red flag” law they’re proposing.
Their measure would let law enforcers or family members ask a federal court for an “extreme risk” protective order to prevent someone from buying or possessing firearms for up to 14 days if they are seen as an imminent risk of violence. A hearing must be provided within three days, and if “clear and convincing” evidence of danger is shown, a judge could issue a longer-term order of up to 180 days.
Graham and Blumenthal have joined other senators in calling for narrow approaches, arguing that it will be too hard to get enough support for tougher gun controls. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York is calling for Senate votes on three measures: universal background checks for gun purchasers, a restraining order plan similar to the Graham-Blumenthal measure, and a bill to reinstate the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.
Schumer said that not all Senate Democrats will back the proposals, particularly the assault-weapons ban that’s opposed by the NRA.
Trump on Thursday is holding a meeting with lawmakers and industry representatives to talk about the impact of violence in video games.
The administration is limited in responding to gun violence through regulation of video games, Graham said. “I compliment the president for looking at the cultural aspects of this, but the First Amendment exists,” Graham told reporters.
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