April 2018: Gun Safety Legislation

April 2018: Gun Safety Legislation

Gun Safety Legislation: Prospects for Action in the US Congress

According to a recent article in Roll Call, it sounds like Senate Majority Leader McConnell is hard pressed to find floor time to consider any of the various measures introduced since the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Poor man, it must be tough having to prioritize between legislation to protect the public from gun violence run amok or say, rename a health care facility or loosen banking rules (both passed very recently since Parkland). Here is a short list of proposals and action in Congress so far meant to respond to this latest mass shooting:

  • Fix NICS Act. Sens. Murphy (D-CT) and Cornyn (R-TX) have introduced a bill that basically enforces current law around the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A similar bill passed the House in December, but includes a dangerous provision to allow guns across state lines. Known as the “National Concealed Gun Carry Reciprocity Act,” this legislation would allow those states with the most stringent requirements to be subverted by those with the most lenient regulations. A January 2015 report by Everytown for Gun Safety said that reciprocity not only interferes with states’ rights, but also more dangerously, ‘’some states do thorough criminal background checks on applicants, while other states have such ineffective permitting systems that they inadvertently issue permits to felons.”
  • Manchin-Toomey. This legislation, which failed to pass after Sandy Hook, expands background checks to include internet and gun show sales. Senators, how many times must we remind you that 97% of all Americans support universal background checks!
  • Assault weapons ban. This legislation, not surprisingly, is backed solely by Senate Democrats and, according to The Hill, most of the House Democratic Caucus;
  • School safety grants. On March 14, 2018, the House passed by near unanimity a measure called “Students, Teachers, Officers Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act.” Basically, it provides grants to schools to provide training. Catchy name, but hardly a panacea to the real threats the public faces from gun violence.

Other measures include various renditions to address school safety, minimum age, and so-called “red flags” sometimes referred to as “ERPO” (extreme risk protective order).

I’m feeling a surge of optimism from the Parkland students’ #NeverAgain movement, and their persistence informs me that they will not accept band aid fixes to our gun sickness. And maybe, just maybe, after politicians witness the throbbing pulse of the angry crowds rallying on March 24, we will hear more quotes similar to these by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham:

“I don’t know what Mitch’s game plan is for dealing with this. I’m not going to go into my election saying I didn’t do something. To the politicians who believe they are going to be rewarded by punting on this, I think you’re making a huge mistake.” (Graham speaking to reporters after introduction of measure with Democratic Sen. Blumenthal addressing high-risk persons and gun purchases.)

To learn more, attend the legislative briefing hosted by WNDC PPC Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention on Wednesday, April 18, 12:30-1:30 pm.

— Shelly Livingston, Acting Chair, Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention