A week since Uvalde, Senate GOP focuses on border wall and anti-China bills

House Democrats’ response to Uvalde

The House Judiciary Committee is holding an emergency meeting tomorrow to markup HR 7910, the “Protecting Our Kids Act.” The bill would prohibit the sale or delivery of “any semiautomatic centerfire rifle or semiautomatic centerfire shotgun that has, or have the capacity to accept, an ammunition feeding device with a capacity exceeding 5 rounds, to any individual” under the age of 21. Other provisions strengthen gun trafficking codes, require that all firearms be traceable—a measure meant to curtail the production of ghost guns, and increase grants for safe storage programs.

The House also plans to vote on Rep. Lucy McBath’s (D-GA) ‘red flag’ bill next week. HR 2377, the “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2021,” would allow family members and law enforcement to obtain an extreme risk protection order to temporarily remove access to firearms for those who are deemed a danger to themselves or to others by a federal court.

  • According to an Everytown report, in 51 percent of mass shootings from 2009 to 2017, the attacker exhibited warning signs before the shooting

Furthermore, the House has already passed two bills that would increase the effectiveness of background checks before purchasing firearms in the U.S. HR 1446, the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021,” would close the loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to skip a federal background check because it took longer than 3 days to complete. HR 1446 passed the House last year in a 219-210 vote. Two Republicans voted in favor—Fitzpatrick (PA) and Smith (NJ)—and two Democrats voted in opposition—Golden (ME) and Kind (WI).

The second bill, HR 8, would require background checks on all gun sales—even those conducted by unlicensed sellers over the internet or at gun shows. According to Everytown, 1.2 million online ads offering firearms for sale are posted on a single website, Armslist, each year. These sales do not require a background check under current law. HR 8 passed the House last March in a 227-203 vote. Eight Republicans voted in favor—Buchanan (FL), Fitzpatrick (PA), Garbarino (NY), Gimenez (FL), Kinzinger (IL), Salazar (FL), Smith (NJ), and Upton (MI)—and one Democrat voted in opposition—Golden (ME).

Both HR 1446 and 8 are currently stalled in the Senate.

Separately, Reps. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) reintroduced legislation first filed after the El Paso mass shooting in 2019. The “Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act” would require federal firearms licensees to report the sale of two or more long guns, including semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and the AK-47, within a five-day period.

According to law enforcement officials, the shooter in Uvalde, Texas legally purchased two AR platform rifles within three days of each other from a federally authorized dealer… “This bill would require a gun dealer to notify ATF when a person purchases multiple guns in a short period of time, enabling ATF to act before a tragedy occurs,” [said Nico Bocour, Giffords Government Affairs Director.]

House Republican response

What have Republicans offered in the past week to address the gun violence crisis in America? Bills to “harden America’s schools against violent threats.”

The “School Resource Officer Assessment Act,” by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), would require the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of Education to gather data regarding the number and deployment status of school resource officers across the country. The “School Watch and Tactics (SWAT) Act,” also by Rep. Higgins, would establish national training standards for school resource officers, including active shooter response.

Higgins says that his bills are necessary because “every school district in the country should have a sufficient number of highly-skilled, tactically-trained school resource officers to protect our kids and teachers.”

  • Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) co-sponsored both of Higgins’ bills.

Another House Republican introduced three bills also focusing on putting more guns in schools: HR 7907, “to keep schools safe using unobligated Federal funds available to the Secretary of Education to respond to the coronavirus,” HR 7908, “amend the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 to permit qualified law enforcement officers, qualified retired law enforcement officers, and persons not prohibited by State law from carrying a concealed firearm to carry a firearm, and to discharge a firearm in defense of self or others, in a school zone,” and HR 7909, “to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for an exclusion from gross income for compensation of certain school resource officers.” Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), from the area southeast of Houston, authored the trio of bills.

Senate response

The Senate, meanwhile, is holding bipartisan “talks” about potential gun control measures. As we saw with similar bipartisan negotiations (anyone remember police reform?), it is unlikely to result in meaningful action.

In the week since the Uvalde massacre, Senators have introduced bills to “limit the authority of the World Health Organization” (Sen. Rick Scott), facilitate the building of the border wall (Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Joni Ernst), prohibit military members from being punished for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, and bills targeting China (Sen. Tom Cotton).