In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 19 children and two adults dead, it did not appear Congress would take immediate action to pass any legislation to overhaul or reform the nation's gun laws.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) acknowledged in remarks on the floor on Wednesday that there did not appear to be a path forward for legislation changing gun laws. Schumer argued that Republicans are opposed to such efforts and that Americans should consider gun policy when they vote in November.
Schumer said the Senate could use the domestic terrorism bill under consideration this week "to begin considering gun safety amendments," although there does not appear to be enough support to use that bill as a vehicle to pass the measures. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said any gun legislation would likely not be taken up by the Senate until after the chamber's Memorial Day recess.
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Proponents of legislation to change the nation's current gun laws have been left jaded by numerous failures to pass such legislation. Following a 2012 school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, the last bipartisan gun control effort, spearheaded by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), failed in the Senate in 2013.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to plead with colleagues to find "a common denominator" for a federal legislative response to reduce mass shootings.
"What are we doing? What are we doing?" Murphy asked, adding, "Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is that as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?"
Prior to the Sandy Hook shooting, Democrats had been more cautious about advocating gun control measures after some in the party blamed an assault-weapons ban signed into law by President Bill Clinton as a factor in their midterm election losses in 1994. And Vice President Al Gore, then the Democratic presidential nominee, lost both his home state of Tennessee and West Virginia, previously a Democratic stronghold, in the 2000 election, costing himself and his party the presidency.
But with the Uvalde, Texas, shooting giving new prominence to the issue, Democrats do not appear poised to offer legislation that could pass the Senate. With Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) remaining opposed to ending the filibuster, Democrats cannot take unilateral action and would need to win Republican support for any measures they would pass.
Although Democrats pointed to Republican resistance, the party has not focused on gun legislation while controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House for more than a year.
The Texas school shooting followed another recent mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store that investigators say was targeted for being in a predominantly black neighborhood. That shooting did not prompt a legislative response either.
House-passed background check bills from March of last year have not been taken up by the Senate, and it was not immediately clear what measures to reform existing laws or pass new restrictions might be met with bipartisan support.
In his own remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) condemned the violence but did not elaborate on what, if any, legislative response he would support.
But some Republicans indicated they are open to debate on certain types of reform.
"I welcome a debate in the U.S. Senate about any and all measures that my colleagues believe will have an effect," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a state that saw a 2015 mass shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, wrote on Twitter. "Let's debate and vote."
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Toomey, who is retiring at the end of his term, reportedly still supports expanding background checks after his failed effort with Manchin. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) indicated she would support incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, which grant state authorities some ability to confiscate guns from people who are believed to present a threat to themselves or others.