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The Ideal GOP Gun Bill Is No Bill At All

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WASHINGTON ― Republicans outside of the small group of senators negotiating a possible bipartisan gun control deal aren’t exactly cheering for the group to succeed.

Several House Republicans told HuffPost this week that in terms of federal law and firearms, the established order is superb, whatever the occasional high-profile mass shooting.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said she doesn’t favor any recent gun laws.

“We don’t need any. We’ve got one, it’s called the Second Amendment,” she said. “Murder’s already illegal.”

Along similar lines, Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) said real solutions weren’t being talked about by Democrats.

“We’re not talking about school security. We’re not talking about all of the cultural nonsense that’s happening,” he said.

Greene’s position was more concrete than many Republicans were willing to put out. With attention focused on bipartisan gun negotiations within the Senate, other House Republicans took more of a wait-and-see approach, saying they wanted to judge what emerges from those talks before declaring in the event that they could support any changes.

So long as the Senate group continues to be working, it allows everyone not involved within the talks to take a step back and avoid specifics.

Twelve-term House member Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who grew up steeped in gun culture, with a hobbyist father who built guns by hand, and who campaigned in 1984 for a state legislature seat in a pickup with a “God bless the NRA” sticker, was determinedly vague.

“I don’t know yet. I’m not willing to reveal that yet,” he said Wednesday during House votes on a Democratic gun safety bill. “There are commonsense reforms that you could possibly do.”

Some Senate Republicans not party to the continued negotiations have been similarly reticent to say whether or not they favor specific changes. Several senators have told HuffPost they didn’t necessarily oppose the thought of raising the buying age on rifles, but they didn’t need to embrace it, either.

“It’s good that members on each side of the aisle aren’t ruling out different provisions at once,” said Sen. Todd Young (Ind.), who boasted an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund when he ran for Senate in 2016. “So we’ll see once they come back what has bipartisan buy-in for the package and I’ll give it very strong consideration.”

The Senate negotiation is basically an exercise in seeing if Republicans will conform to small changes within the federal background check process they’d normally oppose in exchange for whatever they need on mental health and college security. House Republicans aren’t even on the table.

“Within the short term, I don’t think the reply is to limit the number of excellent folks with guns and the appropriate to defend themselves, and there’s a reason why no person goes to a police station or to a gun rally and take a look at to shoot up the place,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.).

“You’ll be able to’t legislate evil to go away,” he said.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) downplayed the necessity for brand new gun laws, despite a recent spate of mass shootings. “You’ll be able to’t legislate evil to go away,” he said.

Tom Williams/Getty Images

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he’s closely watching the Senate negotiations and set the bar high for a bipartisan approach.

“I do know there’s a serious try and do something over there. There’s not over here. So if something gets through, particularly with a considerable margin — where it’s not 60 [votes], nevertheless it’s within the 70s — then I’m going to take a seat down and look,” he said.

Cole acknowledged recent gun restrictions face steep odds amongst his colleagues. “I believe nearly all of Republicans would probably be inclined to vote no and leave the problem to the states, but, again, let’s wait and see what they do” within the Senate, he said.

That tentativeness to supply detail stood in contrast with Democratic proposals in two bills on the House floor this week. Major provisions in Wednesday’s bill and the variety of GOP votes they received included:

  • Prohibiting the acquisition of semiautomatic weapons for people younger than 21 (10 votes)

  • Tightening restrictions against “straw purchases” of guns (seven votes)

  • Prohibiting untraceable “ghost guns” (eight votes)

  • Requiring gun safes or secure locations if guns are stored where they may very well be accessed by minors (three votes)

  • Restricting bump stocks and high-capacity gun magazines (13 votes)

Thursday’s bill would have arrange a federal version of state-level “red flag” laws, which might make it illegal for people deemed a risk to themselves or others to own or obtain weapons.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said most Republicans Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said most Republicans “would probably be inclined to vote no and leave the problem to the states, but, again, let’s wait and see what they do” within the Senate.

Alex Wong via Getty Images

Though each bills passed, they’re considered doomed within the Senate and every received only five votes from House Republicans ― and only considered one of the five is running for reelection.

Not every Republican was vague. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.) touted two specific bills — one he authored, one other he co-sponsored with a Democratic lawmaker — that he said could get bipartisan support in the event that they got here to the ground.

“There are multiple bills that will even have a likelihood to develop into law and, more vital than that, would actually help save lives,” he said.

However the bills Diaz-Balart cited are much less sweeping than the Democratic proposals. One would create a federal clearinghouse to share school safety best practices and the opposite would require the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which studies targeted violent attacks, to research school violence and offer training on school violence prevention.

Asked to call a change he could support, Roy said he wanted to have a look at laws that will allow committing individuals who have mental health issues. Cole said he favored taking a look at mental health and guns in addition to incentivizing states to pass their very own red flag laws.

And, when pressed, Simpson noted he had voted up to now in favor of requiring trigger locks to be sold with guns.

“You take a look at raising the age to 21 [for buying assault weapons], that’s probably not such an enormous deal, since you may have to be 21 to purchase a handgun anyway,” he said.

A waiting period of “a number of extra days” due to expanded background checks for gun buyers could be inconvenient, he said, but “you could possibly probably put up with stuff like that.”

Simpson said it was still up within the air if the political environment had shifted on guns, though he added that “the sensation is it’s form of modified.”

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who voted for each House bills this week, said it was not enough to easily take a look at “hardening” schools and rethinking mental health and guns.

“There may be a legislative component — people can’t be afraid to deal with it,” he said. “You bought to do it.”

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