Congress broke out in partisan discord over guns, as it has with increasing frequency in the aftermath of every horrific mass shooting in the nation.
U.S. House Democrats quickly moved to call for the reinstatement of a federal ban on assault-styled weapons like the AR-15 that killed three nine-year-old students and three educators at a private school in Nashville this week.
“They are not being used to hunt deer, they are being used to hunt human beings,” House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference on the U.S. Capitol steps.
Like Jeffries, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, demanded Republicans move on new gun control regulations at that press conference, something GOP lawmakers say they won’t do.
“Why is it that, as a mom in the United States, I have to worry every single day whether my 10-year-old daughter will be shot in the classroom, the same way I worried about my safety when I lived in a war zone,” said Omar, a Somali refugee.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, however, broke with most of his Democratic colleagues in advocating for armed guards in schools, something some Republican lawmakers say is the solution to keeping children safe in the nation’s schools.
“I might be an outlier on this as a Democrat, but in the near term, I’m becoming of the opinion that we must ensure that there is an armed security officer at every school possible in America right now,” Phillips said in an interview aired by Minnesota Public Radio. “It is one of the few actionable, bipartisan – I’d like to think – measures we can take in the near term to at least provide a modicum of safety to our children.”
The shooter in Nashville, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, had been diagnosed with an emotional disorder, and her arsenal of weapons had concerned her parents.
After the mass shooting in a grade school in Uvalde, Texas, last year, Congress approved a few very modest new laws aimed at curbing gun violence, including one that provides states new incentives to adopt “red flag” laws that would allow courts and law enforcement to temporarily remove weapons from those deemed by family members or friends to be a danger to themselves or others.
There’s no realistic expectation Congress will do anything more on gun safety. So it’s up to the states to decide whether they want to strengthen gun restrictions.
After the 2018 Parkland shooting, 18 states and the District of Columbia implemented red flag laws. But Tennessee did not. Nor did Minnesota.
DFL leaders in Minnesota’s state Legislature hope to pass a red flag law, but prospects are uncertain since the party has such a slim, one-vote majority in the state Senate.
Editor’s Note: Ana Radelat wrote this story for MinnPost.com. This story was originally published as part of the D.C. Memo in MinnPost on March 31. The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
Radelat is MinnPost’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.
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