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Congress takes up new gun laws in emergency meetings after latest round of U.S. massacres

June 1, 2022, 9:19 am
AR-15 assault rifle
This AR-15 assault rifle is banned in Vail (wiki commons photo).

WASHINGTON — Following mass shootings in New York and Texas, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is holding an emergency meeting on Thursday to mark up gun control legislation — though it’s likely doomed.

The package includes eight gun-related bills, known as the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” and they are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House. But the legislation has little chance of making it through the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes would be required for any bill to advance. Assuming every Democrat was in favor, they would need 10 Republicans to join.

The House package would raise the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevent gun trafficking, require all firearms to be traceable, and close the loophole on bump stocks, among other things. 

The meeting was scheduled by Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, after a white supremacist killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on May 14. Ten days later, an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was attacked by an 18-year-old man armed with a rifle, and 19 children and two teachers were killed.

Meanwhile, with both the House and Senate in recess this week, a small bipartisan group of senators is also holding virtual talks to see if it is possible to develop any legislation on guns.

Last week, hours after the Uvalde slaughter, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, did not commit to working on any gun control legislation with Democrats. 

However, a few Senate Republicans seemed open to the idea of red flag laws, which allow the courts or law enforcement to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is distressed. Colorado has its own red flag law

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who’s worked for years to attempt to pass gun reform laws, tweeted that he’s been talking with senators of both parties about putting together a bipartisan gun violence bill. 

“Senator Schumer has given us just over a week to find a compromise,” he wrote. “This time, failure cannot be an option.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said that if Republicans do not work with Democrats to come to an agreement, the Senate will still hold a vote on gun control legislation, even if it fails, when the chamber returns from recess.

After the Uvalde massacre, the nation’s second-deadliest mass school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago, Schumer took a procedural step to begin debate on two background check bills, with the possibility of calling for votes on them. 

The House-passed bills are H.R. 8, which “establishes new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties,” and H.R. 1446, which “increases the amount of time… that a federal firearms’ licensee must wait to receive a completed background check prior to transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.”

On Sunday, President Joe Biden visited Uvalde and called on Congress to stand up against the gun lobby and send a bill to his desk. 

Gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, spent a record of nearly $16 million in lobbying in 2021, campaign finance records show.

“I will meet with Congress on guns, I promise you,” Biden told reporters Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing on gun violence June 15.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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