WASHINGTON – The brutal slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in a Texas elementary school has not moved the needle when it comes to the approval of gun legislation in Congress, with the GOP continuing to be opposed to even the most modest proposals.
The mass shooting in Uvalde by 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos, who used an AR-15-style rifle, happened on the heels of another mass shooting at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. But the latest gun violence seemed to only rip open further partisan divisions.
A little over a year ago, the U.S. House voted to expand FBI background checks at gun shows and on online sales by individuals.
The bills passed the House because it has a Democratic majority, but stalled in the divided Senate because they could not obtain the 60 votes needed to move forward. Every Democratic member of the Minnesota congressional delegation voted for the bills. Every Republican member voted against them.
The partisan divide remains, both among Minnesota lawmakers and the Congress as a whole, even as Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to put the bills to another Senate vote that’s likely doomed to failure.
It’s been nearly a decade since the shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, prompting an effort in Congress to try to keep guns out of the wrong hands. But, despite the rash of mass shootings that followed in Charleston, El Paso, Texas, Las Vegas, Buffalo, N.Y., and other places, these efforts made no progress.
Congressional Republicans on May 25 showed sympathy for the victims of the nation’s latest mass shooting, but largely avoided talking about guns.
The House also approved a second bill that would prevent gun sales from proceeding if a background check isn’t completed within three days as allowed under current law. That made it possible for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine people in 2015 at a Black church in Charleston, S.C., to purchase a handgun even though he should have been barred from buying one.
“The innocent children, families, and faculty at Robb Elementary remain top of mind today as the utter devastation of what happened in Uvalde continues resonate in households around the country,” said Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, in a response to questions about his rejection of gun legislation. “We will continue to pray for all of the victims as we learn more about how yesterday’s horrific events unfolded, and how we can prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
Meanwhile, the Texas tragedy spurred renewed calls from Democrats for approval of federal gun legislation.
“It has been nearly a decade since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and yet federal gun safety legislation has been repeatedly blocked,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Only action will begin to solve this deadly crisis.”
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum tweeted, “When car crashes were the leading cause of death for children, we changed the laws. We made cars and driving safer. Now it’s time to do the same and end easy access to guns.”
And, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips tweeted at first reports of the shooting when the full loss of life had not been determined: “I’m a gun owner. Do not tell me our Founders conceived of this carnage when they wrote the Constitution. Do not tell me they would have tolerated this madness. Do not tell me that teachers must be armed. And do not tell me your AR15 is worth more than another 14 children’s lives.”
While President Joe Biden on May 24 decried the killings as senseless and demanded action, the Senate won’t act on anything until after a weeklong recess that began on May 27.
There are other bills besides the background check legislation under discussion. One would raise the age of gun ownership to 21. Others would establish a federal “red flag” law. Those laws, adopted by many states after the Sandy Hook shootings, permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
Also called risk-based gun removal laws, red flag laws are in effect in 19 states, but not Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Walz has urged its adoption.
Some gun safety advocates, including Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are trying to prevent another gun legislation failure in the Senate and have begun talks with certain Republicans on trying to find something that can win approval in this highly political election year.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has indicated she could consider some type of red flag law.
Still, chances of Biden getting what he wants — action on gun control — remain very slim as the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment groups stand their ground.
Gun Owners of America (GOA) accused “left-wing politicians” of “playing on raw emotion to grow support for various gun-control proposals like universal background checks and increasing minimum age requirements to 21.”
“Instead of playing politics and saying ‘we need to do something,’ we should be discussing real solutions to preventing this type of evil from striking again, for example, by arming willing teachers which is a solution supported by 81% of police,” the GOA said in a statement. “We must also repeal the Gun Free School Zones Act, which leaves our children vulnerable to criminals and our parents unarmed to defend them.”
Ana Radelat wrote this story. It originally appeared on May 27 in MinnPost.com.
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