Senate

Senate GOP resists calls for gun control after Buffalo shooting

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is seen during a press conference on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 to discuss rising crime issues around the country.
Greg Nash
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is seen during a press conference on Wednesday, February 9, 2022 to discuss rising crime issues around the country.

Senate Republicans are resisting calls for gun reform in response to the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., frustrating their colleagues across the aisle who say more action is needed in wake of the massacre.

While Republicans have been quick to denounce the racist mass shooting, in which 10 people were killed and 3 were wounded at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood, members of the party and leadership have also been swift in countering growing Democratic-backed calls for gun reform.

“It just doesn’t seem to be helpful to me to go after law-abiding citizens and our Second Amendment rights, so I’m going to continue to hold that position,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, said Tuesday.  

“I think I heard a Black person from Buffalo on television say that guns don’t kill, people kill. So what are you going to accomplish by gun control?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Monday. “Particularly, if it’s a violation of the Second Amendment?”

The comments underscore what Democrats say would be a heavy lift for significant action on gun reform following the shooting in the evenly split Senate, where the party would need the support of all of its members, and at least 10 Republicans, to pass gun reform legislation.

“I think we’ve got to continue to organize around it. But clearly, if we can’t get the votes for Manchin-Toomey in the Senate right now, it’s going to be hard to move any bills,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on Tuesday, referring to gun reform legislation first introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) years back, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Manchin expressed similar frustration on Monday when discussing his and Toomey’s legislation, which sought to mandate background checks for all gun commercial sales.

“We can’t even get Manchin-Toomey, which didn’t violate anyone’s rights. It just said there should not be a commercial transaction unless there’s a background check,” Manchin said. “It’s the most, I think it’s the most agreed upon, it’s the most accepted in the country and we can’t even get that done.”

The Saturday shooting in Buffalo has been regarded as the deadliest in the United States this year.

The massacre occurred at a Tops Friendly Markets on Saturday afternoon, when officials say a white gunman opened fire on people outside and inside the store. Eleven of the 13 victims were identified as Black in the shooting. 

Officials have said the shooting was motivated by racist hatred, after the suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, was found to have pointed to the so-called great replacement theory in writings ahead of the shooting.

In the days since the shooting, some Republicans opposing calls for gun reform have voiced support for measures focused on mental health, but Democrats and advocates have called for further action, ranging from expanding background checks to red flag laws.

Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, said he thinks there needs to be more national legislation for gun reform, particularly while discussing the guns used by the suspect, which NPR reports included an AR-15-style assault rifle and a high-capacity magazine currently banned in New York.

“I think that speaks for a nationwide law to address these issues, because, right now, we have a patchwork of state laws,” Horwitz said. “And I think it’s highly important that, when you’re talking about these types of weapons, that we have a strong national policy, and especially on these high-capacity magazines.”

The White House has also stepped up pressure on Congress for action, with President Biden advocating for gun reform during his visit to Buffalo on Tuesday.

“I know tragedy will come again. It cannot be forever overcome. It cannot be fully understood either. But there are certain things we can do. We can keep assault weapons off our streets,” Biden said.

“We’ve done it before. I did it when we passed the crime bill last time. And violence went down, shootings went down,” continued Biden, who helped work on the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 that expired almost two decades ago. 

Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) say the party should nix the filibuster in order pass significant gun reform action without GOP support. But chances of success for such an effort are dim given past opposition from Manchin and Sen. Kystren Sinema (D-Ariz.) to change the rule, which requires 60 votes of passage for most legislation.

“​​Legislative reform will require rolling back the filibuster, and to do that, we need two more Democrats,” Warren said on Tuesday.

“That’s why more and more this midterm election is going to be asking some really powerful questions,” Booker said. “So, are we going to elect people that don’t do common sense gun rights reform or not? That’s something I’m gonna be pushing for.”

Tags Biden Buffalo shootings Charles Grassley Chuck Grassley Cory Booker Gun control Joe Manchin John Barrasso John Barrasso

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