Senate and House progress on gun reform


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Senate bipartisan bill

A bipartisan group of senators announced earlier this week that it had reached an agreement on modest gun reform legislation that would nevertheless be the most significant national response in decades to the ever-rising gun violence in America.

The twenty senators include: Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Under the tentative framework, states would be given federal money to enact/maintain red flag laws, gun buyers under the age of 21 would be subject to expanded background checks that include juvenile records, and new penalties would be enacted for straw purchasing of firearms. Furthermore, the proposal includes funding for “safety measures” in schools and resources “to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including: early identification and intervention programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.”

Senate Republicans, including those in the bipartisan negotiating group, have already raised concerns about two issues: how to structure red flag law grants and how to close the “boyfriend loophole.” Sen. Cornyn objects to only giving red flag grants to states that already have or newly enact red flag laws:

He said funds should be available to states for “crisis intervention programs, and things like mental health courts, veterans courts, assisted outpatient treatment programs, things like that.”

“I just don’t think anything that funds 19 states for their programs but ignores other states that have chosen not to have a red flag law, but rather have other ways to address the same problem, is going to fly,” Cornyn told reporters Wednesday.

The group is also at odds over who exactly should be defined as a partner in domestic violence situations where one member has a firearm.

[The framework states that] convicted “domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders” should be prohibited from having a gun, “including those who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”

But Senate aides familiar with the behind-the-scenes negotiations say Republicans are resisting language proposed by Democrats because they believe it’s too broad…Republicans want a clear and limited definition that only includes serious long-term relationships, whereas Democrats say it must be able to cover abuse in various dating circumstances for it to matter.

House gun control package

The Protecting Our Kids Act would raise the age for purchasing assault rifles to 21, prohibit straw gun sales, ban untraceable “ghost” guns, require the safe storage of firearms, close the bump stock loophole and limit the capacity of ammunition magazines. It passed the House 223-204.

All but five Republicans voted against the bill. The five that voted in favor were Reps. Fitzpatrick (PA), Gonzalez (OH), Jacobs (NY), Kinzinger (IL), and Upton (MI).

Two Democrats voted against the package: Reps. Golden (ME) and Schrader (OR).

The House voted on all the provisions of the Act separately before voting on the bill as a whole. The most popular provision among Republicans was a requirement that the DOJ submit to Congress an annual report on “the demographic data of persons who were determined to be ineligible to purchase a firearm based on a background check”. Only 47 Republicans voted against it.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) voted against nearly all of the components of the Protecting Our Kids Act, saying “the bills are too sweeping in their design” and “stand no chance of becoming law.”

“Now is not a time for bills we all know will fail. Congress should not simply focus on “doing something” but rather on doing something of substance that can pass into law and will advance the effort to prevent those with violent intent from obtaining or possessing weapons. We do not need to take sometypes of firearms away from all Americans, but instead we should work to keep all firearms out of the hands of felons and those who have demonstrated that they are at serious risk of committing harm to themselves or others.

The provision that lost the most Democratic votes bans large capacity magazines. Reps. Cuellar (TX), Golden (ME), Kind (WI), and Schrader (OR) voted in opposition.

House red flag bill

The House also passed a bill allowing federal courts to issue extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws. If enacted, the bill would give courts the ability to temporarily remove firearms from a person exhibiting dangerous behavior and prevent them from purchasing more. It passed 224-202 with only one Democrat (Rep. Golden) voting against. Rep. Golden explained that he wants the states, not the federal government, to design and implement their own red flag laws.

Five Republicans voted in favor: Reps. Fitzpatrick (PA), Gonzalez (OH), Jacobs (NY), Kinzinger (IL), and Upton (MI).

19 states, plus D.C., have their own red flag laws: CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, IN, MA, MD, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, RI, VA, VT, and WA.

Red flag laws allow a limited number of people — like law enforcement officers and family members — to petition a judge for an extreme-risk protection order requiring a person to temporarily surrender their firearms and refrain from acquiring new ones. All petitions are not granted; there is a burden of proof that must be met. If successful, the court will issue an emergency extreme-risk protection order usually lasting two weeks or less. Courts have upheld red flag laws across the country, though the Supreme Court has not weighed in on the matter.

In Hope v. State, for example, an appellate court in Connecticut rejected a challenge to the state’s firearm removal law, reasoning that the law does not implicate the Second Amendment because “it does not restrict the right of lawabiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of their homes.”…

Similarly, an Indiana appellate court determined in Redington v. State that Indiana’s red flag law does not violate a state constitutional provision analogous to the Second Amendment, concluding that because only persons proven by clear and convincing evidence to “present a risk of personal injury to either themselves or other individuals” are subject to firearm seizure, the law does not “place a material burden” on the “core” right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms for self-defense.

Nevertheless, Republicans in states with red flag laws still took the House floor to lobby against a federal red flag law:

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida: These red flag laws violate our Second Amendment rights, our Fifth Amendment rights. And when they are done at the national level, they violate our 10th Amendment rights. It is crazy we are considering legislation to bribe the states to take rights away from our fellow americans. And it’s nuts that Republicans in the Senate, the very Republicans who say they’re the classic liberty minded conservatives, they’re now working with Democrats on this very endeavor to federalize the school police and to engage in this bribery for the sake of deprivation of rights. Let me give you this warning, my friends: It’s no victory, as Mr. Carbajal said, that in my beloved Florida we used red flag laws 8,000 times. There weren’t 8,000 school shooters we stopped. Probably not even 8,000 criminals. What we do see is that these red flag laws are used in divorce proceedings. They are used in every type of dispute and it shouldn’t be a cudgel in that way. We’ll stand up for the rights and it’s no bullshit that we will.

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia: One of the most fundamental God-given rights that we possess, which is uniquely protected in our American Constitution, is the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and to ensure that we remain a free people…The guarantee provided by our founders to ensure we remain free from foreign invasion and, yes, as our founders clearly warned us from an oppressive government—like we see in Canada, Australia, and the Democrats’ beloved communist China—is the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to be armed as they choose. Over and over the founders affirmed and reiterated that Congress has no power, no power to limit the right of lawful citizens to arm themselves. but H.R. 2377 would create a nationwide system of red flag laws undermining this Constitutional guarantee of Due Process which is required before depriving any American of their Second Amendment rights.

Rep. Tom McClintock of California: Now, if someone is judged to be dangerously mentally ill, of course, they should not have access to firearms or to any other weapons. They shouldn’t be on the street where they can do harm at all. They should be confined during the course of their illness so they can be treated and not endanger themselves or others. We already have commitment procedures that address this in concert with our constitution. In that process, you appear before a judge, you get to know the charges, you can face your accuser, you can plead your case, and you can present evidence on your own behalf in open court. But not under this bill. Under this bill, an anonymous accuser, including a jilted date or ex-roommate, can trigger a secret proceeding that you don’t even know is happening until the police show up at your door to strip you of your Second Amendment right to self-defense. And the burden, then, falls on you to try to restore it. Then, it won’t stop here. The left’s already branded speech they disagree with as dangerous. But they are right about one thing. This is an extreme risk bill. It’s an extreme risk to our most fundamental individual rights as Americans.

House “great replacement theory” resolution

Every House Republican voted against a resolution that condemns the “Great Replacement Theory” and memorializes the ten victims of the Buffalo mass shooting.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) condemns in the strongest terms the Great Replacement Theory, a White supremacist conspiracy theory that has been used to falsely justify racially motivated, violent acts of terrorism domestically and internationally;

(2) honors the memory and legacy of the victims and acknowledges the lasting impact that this White supremacist act of violent extremism will have on the Black community of Buffalo, New York, the United States, and globally;

(3) encourages all Americans to remember the victims of racially motivated hate crimes connected to White supremacist conspiracy theories such as the Great Replacement Theory; and

(4) reaffirms the commitment of the Federal Government to combat White supremacy in all forms by developing the coordinated, whole-of-government approach to address White supremacist violence.

Two Democrats—Rep. Jared Golden (ME) and Elissa Slotkin (MI)—joined with Republicans to oppose the resolution, though this may be because it was connected with allowing consideration of the Protecting Our Kids Act and federal red flag law.