Schumer demands robust gun debate

- Februari 26, 2018

Chuck Schumer is taking a hard line against any Republican attempt to pass a modest gun measure and then simply move on to other matters.

The Senate minority leader said on Monday afternoon that after the latest mass school shooting in Florida, Congress must at least enact a universal background check proposal that has failed to clear the Senate twice in the past five years. And he said that Democrats would not accept merely passing a narrow bill aimed at improving records and information-sharing in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System without at least attempting to do more.

“If all Congress does in response to the Parkland shooting is to pass the Fix NICS bill, it would be an abject failure and a dereliction of our duty,” Schumer said. “Democrats believe that, at a minimum, the congressional response to the Parkland shooting should include universal background check legislation.”

Schumer added, “It is our hope that Republican leaders will help pass real legislation that makes a difference, rather than NRA-backed bills that make Republicans feel better without meaningfully addressing the issue of gun safety."

Senate Democrats support the so-called Fix NICS bill and would not necessarily vote it down in the end, an aide said, though the party could also block quick action on it and demand a more robust gun debate in the coming days. Democrats want to at least have votes on proposals like universal background checks, which is being revived and revised by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in an attempt to get more GOP support, though it's fate is grim without support from President Donald Trump.

“We’re not going to bring it back unless the president signs on,” Manchin said on West Virginia's MetroNews on Monday. He plans to discuss the proposal, which would require background checks on purchases at gun shows and on the internet, with Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has yet to announce any Senate action on guns. Some lawmakers are trying to pass Fix NICS quickly this week, though even that might be difficult as any one senator can object to passage by unanimous consent in the Senate, and a handful of conservative Republican senators oppose the bill. That means the Senate may need a roll call vote to pass Fix NICS, which would be difficult to schedule this week, given that the Senate has already scheduled votes on presidential nominations.

The House passed a bill to improve the background check system, but attached it to legislation expanding concealed carry reciprocity — which most Democrats strongly oppose and would almost certainly filibuster in the Senate.

On Monday, Trump vaguely referenced strengthening background checks — a likely reference to Fix NICS and not the Manchin-Toomey bill, though Trump has been ambiguous when discussing backgrounds check legislation.

"We're going to do very strong background checks," Trump said at an event with governors. He also called for banning bump stocks that increase the rate of fire of rifles and said Republicans may have to take on the National Rifle Association over some gun proposals.

The NRA opposes raising the age to buy some rifles to 21, an initiative Trump has praised and which has the support of a small number of Senate Republicans like Jeff Flake of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida and Pat Roberts of Kansas. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is also "inclined" to support such a bill, which is still being drafted, according to Flake.

But such a proposal may struggle to get the support of enough of the chamber's 51 Republicans to clear the Senate's 60-vote threshold, let alone pass the more conservative House.

"I’m very skeptical about that. Because the vast majority of 18, 19, 20, 21 year olds are law abiding citizens who aren’t a threat to anyone," Toomey said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "I’m willing to hear the other side on this, but I’m skeptical."


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