Feehery: Is Congress seeking a gun violence solution? Here’s how you can tell

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) returns to his office after opening up the Senate on Monday, June 6, 2022.
Greg Nash
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) returns to his office after opening up the Senate on Monday, June 6, 2022.

Will Congress come up with a solution to gun violence, or would policymakers rather have the issue? Here are five ways to accurately predict what is going to happen. 

First, who are the negotiators? I have a Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rule. If the Senate minority leader is directly involved in the negotiations, it usually means that it will happen. The leader doesn’t waste his time on pointless, political exercises. McConnell appointed one of his closest confidants to lead the discussions on his behalf, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). The Texas senator, who most believe will replace McConnell at the end of his term, is a skilled negotiator and a steady hand who most senators trust to be an honest broker. But Cornyn himself wondered about the assignment when he compared himself to Kamala Harris and her empty efforts to secure the southern border. Cornyn also represents the most gun-friendly state in the country, so he would have to drive an exceptionally hard bargain to please his constituents.  

Second, what role is the president playing? Is he trying to score political points, or is he hosting constructive talks that facilitate reaching an agreement? His speech last week was a carefully staged political event, complete with scented candles as a backdrop, where he sought to put the blame squarely on the folks his allies were ostensibly negotiating with. In the speech, he basically admitted that the only way to achieve his ultimate policy goals was to change the makeup of Congress, not a prescription for a compromise with the other party. 

Third, is there an effort to bring in the stakeholders or to demonize them? The National Rifle Association  (NRA) ain’t as good as it once was, but it is as good once as it ever was (to paraphrase the Toby Keith song). It has been a rough couple of years for the gun rights trade association. Internal disputes, charges of corruption, staff turnover and leakage of members to a more aggressive rival have made the NRA less powerful than it used to be. But that’s not what the Democrats would have you believe. To them, the gun group is both supremely powerful and supremely evil. The fact is that it’s legal gun owners across America that have the real grassroots power, not their trade association. If there were an effort to bring the NRA to the table to find possible common-ground solutions, that would show good faith on the part of congressional negotiators. Instead, the Democrats like to paint them as the bad guys, which shows you that they aren’t all that interested in finding a solution.    

Fourth, is there an effort to find a win-win or instead, do negotiators have a win at all costs attitude? There is no doubt that the American people would like to see something done to stop gun violence. A natural starting and ending point would be what now-Sen. Rick Scott (R) signed into law as governor of Florida, which included an increase in the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21. But that’s not enough for Democrats or the president. They have upped the ante to include things that no Republican facing an election could possibly support. The more partisan House will move quickly to pass more gun control measures this week, before the Senate negotiators have time to hammer out a compromise, because they don’t want compromise. They want the issue. 

Finally, how close are we to an election, and how important is the issue to the compromising party? Democrats need Republicans to compromise on this issue, because they need to get 60 votes to get anything done. But the GOP base is not interested in more gun control, especially after the COVID-19 shutdowns of the last two years. Democrats know that Republicans really can’t come too far in their direction, or they will get killed in the next election. That is precisely why they will continue to push for things they know Republicans can’t accept. We are very close to the next election, and for Democrats to win, they know they need to deflate the Republican base and change the subject from inflation. This issue does both.  

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.). 

Tags Congress Election gun violence Joe Biden John Cornyn Kamala Harris Mass shootings Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Reform

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