After more than a decade-long cycle of American mass shootings and congressional gridlock, lawmakers in Congress voiced hesitant optimism this week that they could find a bipartisan answer to the recurring deadly violence.
The House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to host an emergency meeting Thursday morning to debate the Protect Our Kids Act, a sweeping package that would set new age limits for purchasing weapons, limit magazine sizes, crack down on so-called ghost gun sales and more.
“It’s a real dark place we’re in right now, and I think we owe it to the American people to do everything we can to provide a more safe and compassionate country,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., the author of the legislation, told Yahoo News Wednesday.
A small group of top Senate Democrats and Republicans has also been working closely for more than a week to find compromises that can win enough support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster hurdle.
Back-to-back massacres last month — one in which a shooter espoused white supremacist views before attacking customers at grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., the second in which elementary school children were gunned down by an 18-year-old shooter with a semiautomatic rifle — have shaken the country as well as members of Congress.
Senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have been meeting nearly daily on Zoom calls and over the phone to hammer out a bipartisan framework for new gun restrictions.
A senior Republican aide said Wednesday that sweeping House measures supported primarily by Democrats aren’t likely to fare well in the Senate. The aide referenced earlier House efforts that passed the Democrat-led House but stalled in the Senate this session.
“Their bills are going nowhere fast in the Senate,” said a Senate Republican aide. “If a gun bill is signed into law, it will be a Senate bill.”
Indeed, House gun control measures giving law enforcement more time to vet buyers and expand background checks stalled previously in the Senate. And there’s little expectation that the reforms House Democrats are pushing would survive bipartisan negotiations in the Senate.
“Will it be everything that reasonable people think we should have? The answer is, probably not,” Thompson said of the emerging legislation. “But will it be more than we have now, the answer is yes.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer anointed Murphy, who has been working on gun violence issues since the Sandy Hook massacre a decade ago, to take the lead for the Democrats on the new restrictions.
A senior Democratic aide told Yahoo that Schumer has set an eight-to-10-day window to try and come up with a compromise that can pass the Senate.
An early framework for the plan being discussed in the Senate has included talks about expanding background checks, bolstering mental health resources, and allocating money for school safety officers and “red flag” measures to curb purchases by potentially dangerous individuals, the Senate Democratic aide said.
“Murphy was given the leeway from Schumer to negotiate, to spend this week while the Senate is in recess, negotiating a package across the aisle,” the aide said. “So we're in that process right now.”