NATIONAL NEWS

Democrats Vow Vote On Gun Bills; Biden Says ‘We Have To Act’

Mar 24, 2021, 8:19 AM
The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House in honor of the victims of Monday's mass s...
The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House in honor of the victims of Monday's mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ten people were shot and killed at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats said they are pushing toward a vote on expanded gun control measures as the nation reels from its second mass shooting in a week. President Joe Biden said “we have to act,” but prospects for any major changes were dim, for now, in the closely divided Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed Tuesday morning to bring to the Senate floor legislation passed by the House that would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers. He said the Senate “must confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades.

“This Senate will be different,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said a day after a shooting at a crowded Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, killed 10 people, including a police officer. “The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”

While a Senate vote on new gun control would be the first in several years, Democrats do not have the votes to pass any significant reform. They are not even united themselves, as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told reporters Tuesday that he opposes the House legislation on background checks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on proposals for gun control. It is unclear whether any of the bills up for consideration — most of them involving more restrictive background checks — would have made a difference in the Colorado case. A 21-year-old man charged with killing eight people in the Atlanta area last week had purchased a 9 mm handgun hours before the murders, prompting advocates to push for longer waiting periods for purchases.

In brief remarks responding to the shooting, Biden urged Congress to move quickly to close the loopholes in the background check system and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — an effort that would be even more difficult to achieve politically. According to a police affidavit, the Colorado shooter had purchased an assault rifle six days earlier.

“It should not be a partisan issue,” Biden said. “This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives.”

Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday in an interview with CBS News that Biden would not exclude taking executive action on gun control measures, but “if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who has aggressively pushed for expanded gun control since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six educators, expressed optimism about the chances for new laws with Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling the House and the Senate. He called it “the dawn of a new era.”

Reality is likely more complicated. Senate Democrats do not currently have deep enough support among Republicans to pass new gun control legislation in the 50-50 Senate, as they would need 60 votes to do so. While expanding background checks is generally popular with the American public, even with some conservatives, Congress has been unable to find a successful compromise on guns in decades, making it one of the most intractable issues in American politics.

The gun debate also highlights a larger difficulty for Senate Democrats as they try to move forward on gun legislation and other policy priorities of the Biden White House. With the filibuster in place, forcing a 60-vote threshold for most legislation, House-passed bills on issues like gun control and voting rights are effectively nonstarters unless Democrats secure significant GOP support.

Some Republicans hinted that they would be open to negotiations, though it was unclear if there were any real bipartisan discussions. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to the House legislation, but “I’m certainly open to the discussion.”

Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who have worked together for years to find compromise on background checks, both said they were opposed to the House legislation, which would close loopholes to ensure background checks are extended to private and online sales that often go undetected, including at gun shows, with some limited exemptions for family and other scenarios. A similar version Manchin and Toomey proposed just after the Sandy Hook shootings included a broader set of exemptions than the House bill.

The House also passed a second bill to extend a certain review period for background checks from three to 10 days. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., introduced the legislation after a shooter killed nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

Toomey said he would like to find legislation that could pass, but “that probably would require something that’s a little bit different. So, we’ll see if we can figure out how to thread that needle.”

Manchin did not say whether he would restart negotiations, only that “we’re going to try to do the responsible, reasonable thing.”

Schumer and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a leading advocate for gun control, said they would meet this week to discuss a path forward. Schumer has not said when he will bring the House legislation up for a vote.

Democrats say they feel the environment around gun legislation has evolved, especially since that last major push in 2013. They point to troubles at the National Rifle Association, the long-powerful advocacy group that poured tens of millions of dollars into electing Donald Trump in 2016. The organization has been weakened by infighting as well as legal tangles over its finances.

“This is the moment to make our stand. NOW,” tweeted Murphy as details of the Colorado shooting emerged Monday evening. “Today, our movement is stronger than the gun lobby. They are weak. We are potent. Finally, a President and a Congress that supports gun reform.”

Democrats are hoping there is a gradual political shift among voters as well. A Pew Research Center poll in September 2019 showed a wide majority of Americans, 88%, supported making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, which is what the House-passed bill would do. Ninety-three percent of Democrats and 82% of Republicans were in favor of the policy.

Many in the GOP base are still strongly opposed to gun control of any kind. In Tuesday’s hearing, which was scheduled before the Colorado shooting, Republicans showed no signs of wavering. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that every time there is a shooting, the Senate engages in “ridiculous theater,” with Democrats proposing laws that he said could take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Republicans have argued that background checks would not stop most mass shootings and would prevent some lawful gun owners from purchasing firearms.

“We already know this pattern is predictable, over and over and over again,” Cruz said.

___

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Hannah Fingerhut and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The Try Guys -- Zach Kornfeld, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer and Keith Habersberger -- in 2017. The g...
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

The Try Guys announce Ned Fulmer is no longer part of the group

The group, which gained popularity at Buzzfeed for their viral videos and eventually departed to begin producing content through their own company, announced on Tuesday that founding member Ned Fulmer "is no longer working with The Try Guys."
15 hours ago
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 26: Luca Leguerchois (L) and Eglantine Leguerchois board up the...
Nouran Salahieh and Jason Hanna, CNN

Hurricane Ian heads toward Florida after slamming western Cuba as a Category 3 storm

Hurricane Ian is heading toward Florida after raking western Cuba on Tuesday -- and officials in the Sunshine State are pleading with people to flee the peninsula's west coast ahead of what could be life-threatening storm surge in the Fort Myers and Tampa areas and flooding rains.
15 hours ago
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...
ANNE D'INNOCENZIO and TOM MURPHY Associated Press

Walmart to cover fertility treatments under insurance plan

Walmart is teaming up with a fertility startup to offer benefits under its insurance plan that will help its workers expand their families.
15 hours ago
Residential single family homes construction by KB Home are shown under construction in the communi...
Anna Bahney, CNN Business

New home sales bounce back in August

New home sales bounced back in August despite high prices and rising mortgage rates that have pushed some buyers away.
15 hours ago
Cast members of NBC's comedy series "Friends." Pictured: David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Jennifer A...
KSL TV

Rolling Stone releases list of 100 greatest TV shows of all-time

A panel of actors, showrunners and critics helped compile the list, which was published Monday.
15 hours ago
In this NOAA handout image taken by the GOES satellite at 17:30 UTC shows Hurricane Ian as it moves...
CRISTIANA MESQUITA and CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Cuba en route to Florida

Hurricane Ian has made landfall in western Cuba, lashing the island with rain and winds as it barreled north toward the Florida coast.
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Democrats Vow Vote On Gun Bills; Biden Says ‘We Have To Act’