Alternate headline: “Biden encourages Americans to go out and buy more guns.”
A push for expanded background checks after a mass shooting would actually be the perfect moment politically for Democrats to eliminate the filibuster *if* all 50 of them were so inclined. Background-check legislation always polls extremely well, often at 80 percent or better even among Republicans. If Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema wanted to go nuclear, this is the issue where they’d have maximum cover on the right to do so. “We can’t let the minority stand in the way of sensible action with a crisis this urgent!” they might say.
Fortunately for the GOP, Manchin isn’t so inclined. And when it comes to centrist Dems named Joe, he happens to have as much influence over legislation as that other guy does. Watch, then read on.
President Biden calls on the Senate to “immediately” pass two House bills on gun reform following the Colorado shooting: “This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. And we have to act” https://t.co/6E7sblX12r pic.twitter.com/2jT49YfZXx
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 23, 2021
Is it true that an assault-weapons ban would reduce gun violence? Hasn’t been true in the past:
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) March 23, 2021
Most gun violence is committed with handguns, not assault weapons, and most fatalities are suicides, not homicides, which makes the Dem obsession with assault weapons curious. They’re the weapon of choice for mass shooters but banning them won’t do much to protect people from guns. “Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” said Ted Cruz at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, which may be true (and usually is) — but we need more information about the Boulder shooting before we can declare it to be accurate this case. The shooter purchased an assault weapon within the past week; a state court judge in Colorado had recently blocked Boulder from enforcing its assault-weapons ban citing a state law that says cities can’t impose their own restrictions. What’s unclear at the moment is where in the state the killer bought his gun and when, precisely. A federal assault-weapons ban could have conceivably blocked him.
But Biden’s urgency to get that done is belied by the fact that neither of the two gun-control bills that passed the House recently dealt with assault weapons specifically. One bill extended the time for federal background checks from three days to 10 in order to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” in which a sale can proceed if the FBI can’t get the check done in 72 hours. The other bill expanded background checks to all gun sales between private parties with limited exceptions (e.g., transfers between family members), with a federally licensed dealer required to take possession of the weapon until the check is done. Remember that Joe Manchin once famously co-sponsored a bill himself with Pat Toomey that would expand background checks to all commercial sales, including gun-show sales and Internet purchases, while carving out a bigger exception for private sales. (Friends, not just family, could sell to each other without a check under his proposal.) Is the new House bill close enough to Toomey/Manchin to earn King Joe’s vote?
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that he does not support House-passed legislation to expand background checks to all gun sales.
“What the House passed? Not at all,” Manchin said, when asked if he supports the legislation…
“I come from a gun culture. I’m a law-abiding gun owner,” Manchin said, adding that he supports “basically saying that commercial transactions should be background checked. You don’t know a person.”
“If I know a person, no,” Manchin said.
Gut-check moment for Pelosi and Schumer: Should they put Toomey/Manchin on the Senate floor instead of the House’s bills? At this point any sort of minor victory on gun legislation might be greeted by the left as a major moral victory after having been stonewalled for so long. And as I say, background-check proposals are very popular; they’d get some minor political mileage out of passing it. The wrinkle is that there’s no point in doing it unless Manchin cherishes his bill with Toomey so much that he’d nuke the filibuster in order to pass it, which is highly unlikely. When Toomey/Manchin came to the floor in 2013, it stalled out at 54 votes — and that was in a Senate with 55 Democrats (well, 53 plus left-leaning independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders), not a mere 50 like there are now. His bill would get fewer votes today than it did eight years ago and Manchin wasn’t willing to bust the filibuster for the sake of passing his bill then. Which means Democrats are stuck. Unless Manchin changes his mind, all they’re going to get from Sleepy Joe’s heartfelt plea for action this afternoon is a sad trombone on cloture in the Senate.
Exit quotation from GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis, reacting to the latest round of gun-grabbing chitchat today: “Every time that there’s an incident like this, the people who don’t want to protect the Second Amendment use it as an excuse to further erode Second Amendment rights. I no longer believe the goal of people who want to erode our rights, little by little, is to just affect or tweak our rights. I now believe that their ultimate goal is to abolish our rights.”