Members of Congress are pledging that this time will be different — that they will take action and pass new gun laws in response to the two mass shootings that have devastated El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, leaving 31 people dead.
“We must do something,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, noting he heard the frustrated mourners who chanted “do something” after the shooting that claimed nine lives in Dayton. He said they were “absolutely right.”
The Republican governor rolled out a series of proposals, including a new “red flag” law, that would allow family members and law enforcement to take away guns from people considered harmful to themselves or others. Similar proposals in the past have been rejected by the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature.
But in Congress, legislation that encourages states to adopt red flag laws may have the best chance to pass, as lawmakers in Washington again renew discussion of gun bills. Maryland is one of 17 states that have passed such laws, along with the District of Columbia, many of which were enacted following the 2018 shooting that left 17 dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is working on a bill with someone he’s often at odds with — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. It would create a federal grant to help states develop a framework for red flag laws, which require cooperation involving law enforcement, judges and mental health professionals.
Graham said this week that he spoke with President Donald Trump about the proposal and he “seems very supportive.” Graham is a close ally of Trump, whose support will be needed, if Republicans are to get on board with any significant gun legislation.
The president confused lawmakers on Monday, when he initially tweeted support for “strong background checks” and immigration reform, then failed to mention either when he spoke to the country hours later.
We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
He did mention red flag laws. Graham, who held a hearing on them earlier this year, quickly picked up on the issue. Many Republicans are more open to red flag laws than broader federal legislation, since they leave much of the oversight to the states.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has opposed other gun legislation, but told reporters on Tuesday that he could support a bill like the one Graham is putting together.
Still, there are no guarantees Graham’s legislation will pass. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been trying for months to get a vote on her red flag bill, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act. It has the support of 25 Democrats, along with independent Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, also has red flag legislation that he’s been trying to move forward.
It has been difficult to gain traction on the “Red Flag” law we filed last year & then again 7 months ago. https://t.co/XOLIm33kPB
I hope the deadly white supremacist terror attack in El Paso will finally spur the Senate to take action.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 6, 2019
Many Democrats don’t think the red flag laws go far enough in taking action against gun violence. Republican critics of the laws say they can result in people unfairly losing their right to own a weapon.
Legislation that would require universal background checks has also failed to move ahead in the Senate. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow it to come up for a vote.
“This should not be in any way a partisan issue, even though it too often becomes that,” King said at a news conference with Schumer in New York, arguing the legislation would help save lives by making it harder for the “most dangerous” people to obtain firearms.
Democrats are trying to keep up pressure on McConnell to take up gun bills that were passed earlier this year by the House. They include the bill discussed by King and Schumer, which would require federal background checks for all firearms sales, including those sold online or at gun shows. The other bill would allow for the an expanded 10-day review of gun purchases.
McConnell has said he’s urging lawmakers to look for bipartisan solutions. But he has not given any indication he plans to call the Senate back into session while lawmakers are in the midst of their August recess.
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