Gun Legislation Stalls in Congress with Democrats Hoping for More Consequential Bills


Despite outcries from parents, students and lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not bring gun-control legislation to the floor of the Senate this week.  McConnell filed a motion to hold a procedural vote on banking reform, and after that he hopes to bring to the floor anti-sex-trafficking legislation.

It is unclear when, or if, gun-control legislation, or any legislation addressing mass or school shootings will come up for debate.

Republicans last week blamed Democrats for preventing a bill sponsored by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) from coming to the floor.  The so-called FixNICS Act would incentivize states and federal agencies to keep the National Instant Criminal Background Check System updated with the latest information about individuals who should be prevented from purchasing firearms.

“We tried to get it cleared yesterday,” McConnell said of the bill, “but the Democratic leader objected.”

Democrats deny holding up the bill.  They say that it was Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) who voted against an expedited process that would have brought the bill to the floor.  Lee acted to block expedited consideration of the bill on the grounds that it doesn’t provide strong enough safeguards for military veterans who are part of criminal cases who would be vulnerable to losing their gun rights.

Democrats support the measure but were also against it coming to the floor, however.  They seem to be pursuing a different strategy.

Aware that they probably have one shot at getting a vote on gun-related legislation in the Senate, Democrats appear to be holding out for a more comprehensive bill, or at least one that’s more impactful.  Voting on a bill that bolsters the existing background check system rather than expands or radically changes it, seems to be a waste of the momentum that has built up in the gun-control movement in recent weeks.

Instead, Democrats want to take advantage of this moment and pursue more consequential legislation.

“What will prevent future tragedy? Comprehensive background checks will. The Fix NICS bill will not,” Schumer said week. “Let’s not set our sights too narrow or squander this moment.”

Democrats are hoping to force a vote on tougher gun-control measures like universal background checks or an assault weapons ban.  The strategy is that even though such measures are likely to fail in the Senate, having such votes on record that they can use against Republicans during the upcoming midterm elections may be more advantageous.

The White House had indicated support for a measure that would raise the eligibility age for assault weapons purchases from 18 to 21, but President Trump in recent days has walked back his support for such a bill, leaving its fate uncertain.  Another proposal, the banning of the accessory known as the bump stock, is largely in the administration’s hands to take action on and not in Congress’.

Democrats, aware that this is the only leverage they have, seem to be holding out in order to get a more significant vote.  For now, it is unclear what the future of any gun debate, let alone gun legislation, is.


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