Society

New Legislation For Background Checks, Assault Weapons Looking Unlikely

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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After the Newtown shootings in December, President Barack Obama called on Congress to enhance gun control laws. Three months later, a significant increase in legislation is beginning to seem less likely.

For starters, the proposed ban on assault weapons has been dead for some time. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke highly of Senator Dianne Feinstein for her work on a bill that would have banned the sale of military guns and high-ammunition magazine clips, but acknowledged that the bill was dropped due to lack of support.

“Using the most optimistic numbers, [it] has less than 40 votes,” Reid said. Reid’s admission indicates that even many Senate Democrats would not have voted for the bill.

In light of the failed attempt to legislate an assault weapons ban, Reid is focused on getting passable legislation to the Senate floor.

“We cannot have votes on everything unless I get something on the floor. It’s a legislative impossibility,” Reid said. “I’m not going to try to put something on the floor that won’t succeed; I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there.”

Reid is counting on Senate Republicans to reengage in talks regarding increased background check legislation. A Senate Committee approved a bill last week for increased background check requirements, but the bill was approved in a 10-8 party lines vote. Republicans did not approve of the bill at the time, and they don’t appear to be budging.

Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John McCain (R-Arizona) all failed to give definitive answers on Tuesday when asked whether they would support legislation for increased background check requirements.

Specifically, the proposed increase in background check requirements would require unlicensed dealers to perform checks on gun purchasers. The legislation would call for the storage of background checks as well. This storage of background checks is the main issue preventing Senate Republicans from voting for the bill. Many gun owners are worried that stored background checks would lead to a national registry of gun owners, which is prohibited by federal law.

Instead of creating a potential registry of gun owners, Senator Lindsey Graham proposed the creation of a registry of citizens not allowed to purchase guns.

“I believe that the best way to interrupt the shooter is to have a mental health system that actually records and enters into the database people who should not be able to buy a gun,” Graham said.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is working to encourage bipartisan talks between Democrats and Republicans. He spoke in support of the background check legislation on Tuesday.

Manchin said the background check legislation “makes all the sense in the world.” He added that the legislation would help “to keep the guns out of the hands of the people that shouldn’t have them.”

Manchin also supports the creation of a federal commission to investigate the causes of mass shootings like the one in Connecticut.

“It takes a culture for someone to use that gun in such a horrific way, and we’ve got to find out what’s happening,” he said. “We need to give people the expertise.”

Manchin added that he has “…got to make sure that I can protect the law-abiding gun owners who use it for the purpose of sporting or defense.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to have legislation ready for a vote “as soon after Easter” as possible.

(Talking Points Memo, Bloomberg, Politico)