Gun Control Advocates Have a Majority in Congress. Here’s How They Plan to Use It.

Mother Jones – by Kara Voght

Gun control advocates are planning an aggressive legislative strategy when Congress reconvenes in January. Working closely with key lawmakers, they hope to use the new Democratic House majority to force votes on a raft of reforms that have been blocked repeatedly by Republicans—including expanded background checks, funding for research on gun violence, and a so-called “red flag” law designed to keep firearms out of the hands of people who pose a danger to themselves or others.  

By many measures, Election Day was a major win for the gun control movement. When the counting is done, more than 30 GOP-held seats will have fallen to Democratic challengers, nearly all of whom have voiced support for stricter firearms laws. The election followed a series of devastating mass shootings and took place just one day before a gunman opened fire at a Southern California bar, killing at least 12 people—tragedies that add a sense of urgency to the issue.

Democrats haven’t controlled a chamber of Congress since 2014, and Republican leaders have generally refused to even bring gun safety bills to a vote. Even when Democrats were in charge, they were unable to pass significant gun reform legislation. In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the Democratic majority in the Senate couldn’t pass a bipartisan measure to expand background checks because five senate Democrats joined most Republicans in filibustering the bill.

But the politics of gun control—thanks in no small part to the activism that followed the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida—have since shifted markedly, aligning Democratic politicians more closely with the gun violence prevention movement’s priorities. For the first time in recent memory, numerous Democrats in competitive races ran—and won—on the gun issue. “These victories give us the opportunity to frame things at the federal level,” says Kris Brown, a co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

That doesn’t mean major gun control bills will become law anytime soon. Republicans—who by and large oppose stricter gun measures—increased their majority in the Senate, making it unlikely that the upper chamber would approve gun legislation passed by the House. Instead, gun control groups and their congressional allies say, they plan to use a series of House votes to force Republicans to go on record supporting or opposing popular firearms legislation.

In a five-point action plan for the 116th Congress unveiled Wednesday, the gun safety group Everytown listed universal background checks for firearms purchases as one of its top priorities. Currently, only federally licensed dealers are required to perform background checks, meaning that private venders at gun shows and elsewhere can sell weapons without screening buyers.

Brown describes universal background checks as the “logical starting point”; more than 90 percent of Americans voiced support for them in a poll earlier this year. Legislation on the issue is almost certain to come to the floor when Congress reconvenes—House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (the frontrunner to be speaker) has promised as much—and the measure will likely succeed. A bipartisan version of the bill, introduced in the current session of Congress by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), has 207 cosponsors, including 14 Republicans. (Five of those Republicans are returning to the House, while eight of the nine others have been replaced by Democrats.) GOP leaders have refused to bring the current bill to the floor.

Everytown’s priorities also include disarming domestic abusers, implementing red flag laws, and funding gun violence prevention research—something the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long been prohibited from doing. Absent from their list are measures that ban assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, despite the fact that such restrictions were a key demand of student activists in the wake of Parkland. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a prominent supporter of gun control and the author of several gun reform bills, thinks that’s wise. Everytown’s priorities are “less about the firearm and more about people’s access to the firearm,” he said. “I think we ought to start with those because I think there would be a lot of bipartisan support for them.”

And despite the GOP’s firmer grip on the Senate, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of that chamber’s leading voices on gun reform, says he isn’t giving up hope. Tuesday’s results, he told me, might force Republicans to reevaluate their political calculus; he noted that the gun debate played an important role in the defeat of Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, where the deadliest mass shooting in US history took place last year. “Given that responsibility will be wholly on the Senate, does he want his members to own the failure of the background check bill—especially after the only Senate Republican incumbent who lost, lost in part due to his opposition to gun safety measures?” Murphy says.

Peter Ambler, the executive vice president of Giffords—the gun safety organization founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she survived a mass shooting—acknowledges it will be tough to actually pass gun laws with Republicans running the Senate. Even so, having House members cast votes on the issue—something they haven’t done since the Sandy Hook shooting—will be a useful tool for future election cycles as the gun control movement seeks to unseat anti-gun-control lawmakers. “Think about what the Republicans did—they tried to repeal Obamacare,” says Ambler, noting that GOP votes to undo the health care law turned out to be major liabilities during the campaign. “It’s important to have a record in the House.”

But 2020 isn’t the only leverage that gun control advocates believe they have. A spokesperson for Everytown says the group plans to channel its 5 million volunteers, who knocked on doors and phone banked for candidates, into a grassroots lobbying effort to pressure lawmakers into taking action.

6 thoughts on “Gun Control Advocates Have a Majority in Congress. Here’s How They Plan to Use It.

  1. ” funding gun violence prevention research—something the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long been prohibited from doing.”

  2. Predicting the next mass shooter: ‘I would say it’s impossible’

    “The ability to identify an individual’s first violent act is extraordinarily difficult – I would say it’s impossible,’’ said Steven Hoge, a forensic psychiatrist and clinical professor at Columbia University. “Because what mental health professionals bring to the table is the ability to identify risks and triggers to past violent acts and to try to figure out how to mitigate or avoid those incidents in the future.’’

  3. Why is it that no one seems to understand that those who serve within our government have NO LAWFUL AUTHORITY over the people and weapons, not what type, not how carried, not what ammunition, etc, etc. It was a power that was NEVER delegated to them as the 2nd Amendment makes clear!

    Here is the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, caps will be mine to emphasize parts that people seem to not read or understand…

    Preamble to the Bill of Rights: “Congress OF THE United States begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
    THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order TO PREVENT MISCONSTRUCTION OR ABUSE OF ITS POWERS, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”
    MISCONSTRUC’TION, noun Wrong interpretation of words or things; a mistaking of the true meaning; as a misconstruction of words or actions.

    ABU’SE, verb transitive s as z. [Latin abutor, abusus of ab and utor, to use; Gr. to accustom. See Use.]

    1. To use ill; to maltreat; to misuse; to use with bad motives or to wrong purposes; as, to abuse rights or privileges.

    They that use this world as not abusing it. 1 Corinthians 7:31 .

    2. To violate; to defile by improper sexual intercourse.

    3. To deceive; to impose on.

    Nor be with all these tempting words abused.

    4. To treat rudely, or with reproachful language; to revile.

    He mocked and abused them shamefully.

    5. To pervert the meaning of; to misapply; as to abuse words.

    ABU’SE, noun Ill use; improper treatment or employment; application to a wrong purpose; as an abuse of our natural powers; an abuse of civil rights, or of religious privileges; abuse of advantages, etc.

    Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty, as well as by the abuses of power.

    2. A corrupt practice or custom, as the abuses of government.

    3. Rude speech; reproachful language addressed to a person; contumely; reviling words.

    4. Seduction.

    After the abuse he forsook me.

    5. Perversion of meaning; improper use or application; as an abuse of words.

    DECLAR’ATORY, adjective Making declaration, clear manifestation, or exhibition; expressive; as, this clause is declaratory of the will of the legislature. The declaratory part of a law, is that which sets forth and defines what is right and what is wrong. A declaratory act, is an act or statute which sets forth more clearly and explains the intention of the legislature in a former act.

    RESTRICT’IVE, adjective

    1. Having the quality of limiting or of expressing limitation; as a restrictive particle.

    2. Imposing restraint; as restrictive laws of trade.

    3. Styptic. [Not used.]

    Basically, it makes it clear that those who SERVE WITHIN our constitutional republic do NOT HAVE ANY POWER whatsoever over the people and their weapons. Those that serve are abusing and misusing the authority that was DELEGATED to the position that they are occupying, breaking their Oath of Office, and committing felonies, Perjury, etc, etc, etc. They are REQUIRED to know and understand the US Constitution because it IS the contract that they serve under, it lists the duties and powers of the position they occupy.

  4. I do not see them starting the war, only on the goodness to save the stupid. That’s why non of the 6 cops in the dive, did anything. They are waiting for people to step up and kill them first so then they make joebob look like a nutcase. SHA ZAM

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