Monday, April 15, 2024

Key Democrats Say Texas School Shooting Could Mark Turning Point On Gun Control

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Topline
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is optimistic Congress could take “small and life saving steps” on gun control, the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, as lawmakers negotiate following the elementary school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children.

Democratic legislators say a bipartisan agreement to strengthen gun control laws may be in reach.

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Key Facts

Durbin—who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and serves as majority whip—told State of the Union host Dana Bash he sensed a “different feeling” among legislators following the shooting, and he believes Congress could reach a compromise on red flag laws, which enable courts to seize guns from people thought to be dangerous to themselves or others.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) echoed Durbin’s comments, telling ABC’s This Week more Republicans are talking about “finding a path forward” following the Uvalde shooting than after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which killed 20 children.

Murphy said he was hopeful for bipartisan agreements on red flag laws, expanding background check requirements and strengthening secure gun storage requirements.

Murphy told CBS’s Face the Nation he’s willing to support “some things that harden our schools that make me a little uncomfortable”—an idea floated by some Republicans—if Republicans are willing to take new steps to heighten gun restrictions.

Durbin cautioned gun control advocates to be “realistic” about the chances of larger reforms, suggesting Republicans would not be willing to revive a federal assault weapons ban, and Murphy says Republicans likely won’t agree to universal background checks or a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), previously a supporter of the National Rifle Association, told This Week Sunday that the NRA had become “crazy” and that advocates for the Second Amendment should support measures like red flag laws.

Contra
Some Republican leaders indicated that the Uvalde shooting had not changed their opposition to tighter gun control. At a Friday NRA convention in Houston, former President Donald Trump said classroom doors should be “hardened” and all schools should be staffed with police or armed guards, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) claimed gun control advocates held an “indulgent ideology that ignores reality” due to their privileged lifestyles.

Key Background
The Uvalde shooting—which left 19 students, two teachers and the suspected gunman dead—had a higher death toll than any U.S. elementary school shooting since the Sandy Hook shooting. The Uvalde shooting followed years of record-setting gun sales with an average of 8.8 million firearms produced annually in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry association. The shooting also came less than two weeks after a racially motivated shooting at a Buffalo supermarket killed 10. In the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, President Joe Biden asked legislators to pass “common-sense” gun control laws and to “stand up” to the firearms lobby. However, some Republicans— including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott—have blamed the shooting on mental illness, though the suspected shooting had no formal record of mental health problems. Democrats have pushed to tighten federal gun laws for years, including after the Sandy Hook shooting, but their efforts have largely stalled in Congress.

What To Watch For
Biden is set to visit Uvalde Sunday, where he plans to attend a memorial to victims of the shooting and to meet with victims’ families.

Further Reading
“Uvalde Shooting Timeline: Student Pleaded With 911 To ‘Send The Police Now’ As Officers On Scene Waited For Tactical Units To Arrive” (Forbes)

“Mass Shooting In Texas Followed 2 Years Of Surging U.S. Gun Sales” (Forbes)

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