Senate gun deal likely to face pushback from House GOP
A modest bipartisan Senate framework to address gun violence is likely to face pushback from Republicans in the House aiming to protect gun rights, even as Democrats cast the deal as just a baby step.
One of the areas in the deal announced Sunday expected to draw some of the sharpest GOP pushback is a provision to provide resources to help states create and administer red flag laws, which allow firearms to be removed from those deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.
The House GOP last week whipped votes against a bill to nationalize red flag laws, with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) bringing up concerns about due process rights. In a press conference, though, he declined to directly say whether he opposed red flag laws as a general proposition.
The framework could get enough support in the House, where Democrats hold a narrow majority, to pass even without GOP support. But the House GOP’s official position on the bill could have implications on future efforts to address gun violence and provide a strong indication on whether there is any place in the party for members who support even modest gun control provisions.
Other measures in the framework include closing the “boyfriend loophole” by including nonmarried romantic or intimate partners convicted of domestic abuse from buying a gun, even if they do not live or have a child with the partner; funding for school mental health and safety programs; increasing penalties for straw purchases of firearms; and reviewing juvenile records for purchasers between the ages of 18 and 20.
A House GOP leadership aide said the caucus will wait to comment until the text of the bill is out, since “the devil is in the details.”
But the aide added: “House Republicans would be wary of gun control laws that would infringe on due process and not have done anything to stop this shooting or stop the bulk of shootings we see in this country.”
Some GOP members have already voiced criticism of the red flag portion of the framework, arguing that states already have legal mechanisms to involuntarily commit those deemed unstable to themselves or others.
“If you think there need to be red flag laws, New York state — I mean, they have some of the strictest red flag laws there, and you saw a shooting that happened there and it wasn’t prevented by it,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus, said in a press conference last week, referring to the mass shooting last month in Buffalo, N.Y.
Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), another member of the caucus, tweeted Sunday that she would vote against “the Biden-Schumer gun confiscation legislation, which includes red flag gun confiscation that violates the Second Amendment rights of my constituents.”
Gun rights groups known for mobilizing masses of their members have already pledged to lobby against red flag legislation.
Gun Owners of America, a group whose scorecard the House GOP cited when whipping votes against gun bills last week, sent an email to supporters on Monday saying that it needs only one of the 10 Republicans who signed on to the framework to walk away in order to kill the deal with a filibuster. It also stated opposition to expanding background checks for 18- to- 20-year-olds and measures against straw purchases.
It could be difficult for activist groups to flip a member of the Senate GOP against the framework, though. Of the 10 Republicans who signed on to the deal, only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is up for reelection in 2024, and four others are retiring after this year.
Some Democrats, such as Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), have said that the framework “falls short” of all the measures that they want. But with support of 10 Senate Republicans, it has enough GOP support to overcome a filibuster and is the best chance Democrats have at passing new gun reforms in three decades.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it a “step forward” that will “save lives,” indicating House Democratic leadership will support the measure.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also applauded the framework, saying that it “shows the value of dialogue and cooperation.”
Support from McConnell, though, does not necessarily indicate that House Republicans won’t come out against the bill. Last year, the House GOP whipped votes against a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate with the support of McConnell, after intense criticism from the conservative caucuses like the House Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee.
But just as the House infrastructure bill eventually passed with support of 13 House GOP members, it is likely that some members defect to support the bill. Five GOP members voted in favor of the bill to nationalize red flag laws. Several others voted in favor of a sweeping measure from House Democrats last week, such as penalties for straw purchases for firearms — a measure in the Senate framework.
“The announcement of the framework is a positive step. I look forward to reviewing the legislation when it is drafted and introduced,” said Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.), who abandoned his reelection bid after intense pushback when he announced support for an assault weapons ban.
“It’s important we find common ground for common sense solutions to protect our schools,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who also voted in favor of the red flag bill last week. “This appears to be a step in the right direction.”
Such GOP defections could make up for any Democratic votes against the Senate framework. Only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), voted against the bill to nationalize red flag laws.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), another Democrat who last week voted against a provision to ban high-capacity magazines, indicated support for the Senate framework.
“Today, the Senate announced common sense, bipartisan gun reforms that support responsible gun ownership. I look forward to passing this bill expeditiously so we can keep our families and neighbors safe,” Cuellar said in a tweet on Sunday.
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