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Schumer desires to pass gun reform bills after Texas school shooting

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Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conducts a news conference after senate luncheons within the U.S. Capitol, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged Wednesday to renew his efforts to pass stricter U.S. gun-control laws, but acknowledged that Republicans will likely block recent firearm regulations even after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

Schumer, the chamber’s top Democrat, implored his Republican colleagues to withstand the influence of the National Rifle Association, a robust pro-gun lobbying group, and join Democrats to debate what measures Congress could pass to scale back mass shootings.

“Please, please, please, rattling it, put yourself within the shoes of those parents for once,” the Recent York lawmaker said from the Senate floor a day after the teenage gunman killed 21 people in Uvalde, Texas.

“Possibly that thought — putting yourself within the shoes of those parents as an alternative of the arms of the NRA — might allow you to wriggle free from the vise-like grip of the NRA,” Schumer added, “might free you to act on even an easy measure.”

Democrats have long blamed the NRA, its millions-strong membership and significant financing, for swaying Republicans against gun policy changes.

Because the U.S. shares its collective horror over the mass killing of kids, the Senate appears unlikely to pass gun-safety laws before lawmakers leave for a Memorial Day recess. Schumer noted that many Democrats want him to quickly take up a House-passed background check bill, but conceded that Republicans would likely block the laws — as they’ve with similar measures previously.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said in a Twitter post Wednesday afternoon that he’ll bring a bill to the chamber floor in the primary week of June to create a national “red flag” law.

Such laws allow police or members of the family to petition a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from an individual suspected of posing a danger to themselves or the general public.

Schumer, echoing Tuesday comments by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., disparaged Republicans who argue that one of the best technique to stop mass shootings is to focus more on mental health than the provision of guns.

“Rates of mental illness are kind of the identical across the developed world,” Schumer said. “The U.S. just isn’t an outlier on mental illness.”

“But we’re an outlier within the sheer variety of guns available on this country,” he added. “That’s the reason we’ve so many shootings and other Western countries don’t.”

The NRA didn’t reply to CNBC’s request for comment.

The Texas shooting and a string of other gun massacres have reengaged Democrats to pass stricter gun-safety rules. President Joe Biden in an emotional speech Tuesday also called on Republicans to withstand the firearms industry’s influence to assist curb gun violence.

The White House, asked if Biden has made plans to go to Uvalde, declined to supply details. CNN reported that the administration is “within the early stages” of planning a presidential visit to Texas.

At the tip of his remarks, Schumer said that the Senate on Thursday will consider a bill that the House passed earlier this month, days after a separate mass shooting in Buffalo, Recent York, left 10 people dead. The gunman targeted shoppers at a food market in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Schumer called upon his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to affix Democrats and permit for debate on and amendments to that laws.

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The bill, referred to as the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, would create three recent offices within the F.B.I, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to watch and investigate domestic terrorism. It could mandate biannual assessments of the threat posed by white supremacists and neo-Nazi ideology within the U.S., which contributed to the Buffalo shooting on May 14.

It’s unclear whether McConnell, the minority leader, will conform to Schumer’s appeals. In his own transient comments Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican described the killings in Uvalde, Texas, as “sickening.”

“Your complete nation’s hearts are broken for the victims and their families,” McConnell said. “Words simply fail.”

McConnell didn’t address policy in his remarks.

Even when McConnell allows discussion on the domestic terrorism bill, Senate Republicans would likely block it. As Schumer also acknowledged, the GOP would likely block a slate of other bills designed to scale back gun violence that Democrats support.

The GOP has for years argued that the important thing to ending criminal gun violence is larger access to mental health services. They are saying tougher gun regulations would infringe upon private residents’ right to bear arms.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said on Tuesday that editing guns laws would not prevent “one other act of evil and mass murder.” He cited the Second Amendment.

“Inevitably when there is a murder of this sort, you see politicians attempt to politicize it,” Cruz said. “You see Democrats and loads of folks within the media whose immediate solution is to try to limit the constitutional rights of law-abiding residents. That does not work. It is not effective.”

People gather at Robb Elementary School, the scene of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, 2022.

Nuri Vallbona | Reuters

Congress could also decide to take up bipartisan laws penned by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania within the aftermath of the 2012 school massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Several Democratic senators, and at the least one Republican, signaled a renewed appetite for conversations about recent gun regulations on Wednesday.

Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat up for reelection in November, wrote on Twitter that “there are commonsense reforms we will pass to scale back gun violence that align with our rights and are supported across the political spectrum.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, reportedly said that she heard from Murphy’s office and that she’s open to discussing a so-called red flag law.

But even the bipartisan Machin-Toomey bill, which might introduce universal background checks on gun purchasers and quash loopholes for firearms purchased at gun shows and over the web, has languished within the Senate for the past decade.

The Senate voted 54-46 in favor of the Manchin-Toomey bill in 2013, but it surely has yet to beat the 60-vote requirement to clear the chamber’s filibuster rule.

Schumer acknowledged that political reality Wednesday morning, when he suggested he would not hold a vote on a bill that lacks enough support to clear the Senate.

“This is not a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand,” he said. “They know.”

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