Final gun control bill largely empty

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

One of the larger fears regarding the supposedly bipartisan Senate gun control bill being cooked up by Texas Republican John Cornyn and some of his friends was that they would only unveil it at the last moment and demand a vote before anyone had time to read it. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and the bill was released last night. That should give everyone at least a short time to review it. And from the looks of the first release, they won’t need very long to do so because there really wasn’t very much that made it into the final cut. In fact, there are certainly more items in this bill that Conservatives would either support or at least not have a major problem with than liberal initiatives. Most of the Democrats’ wishlist items didn’t make it into the bill, with one glaring exception. A test vote indicated that 14 Republicans will vote in favor of it and no Democrats will oppose it. (NY Post)

The Senate finalized a gun control bill Tuesday following a spate of deadly mass shootings across America — setting up a potential vote on passage before lawmakers break for the July 4 holiday at the end of this week.

A bipartisan negotiating group unveiled a framework of a bill on June 12 and had been engaged in frantic talks to hammer out the final text amid public outrage over the massacres at a Texas elementary school on May 24 and a Buffalo supermarket on May 14 that killed a total of 31 people and came amid an upswing of gun crime in cities across America.

“This is a breakthrough, and more importantly, this is a bipartisan breakthrough,” lead Democratic negotiator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on the Senate floor. Late Tuesday, the bill cleared an initial test vote with the support of 14 Republican senators.

We can break down the major items that made the cut into a bullet point list for easy digestion.

  • Juvenile criminal records included in background checks for purchasers under 21 years of age
  • Increased sentencing for trafficking black market firearms to 15 years
  • Sentence of 25 years if trafficked firearm is used in the commission of a felony, act of terror, or drug trafficking
  • New funding for school safety enhancements and mental health treatment programs
  • Federal incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws

Except for the red flag laws, none of that is really problematic and largely fits in with what conservatives have been supporting for years instead of gun bans, confiscations, and everything else liberals drool over. The juvenile record item should prove particularly useful in urban areas where teenagers frequently fall in with gang activity and run up a record before turning 18, only to have it sealed if they apply for a permit to get a gun legally. Stiffer penalties for trafficking illegal weapons is a great idea since it actually allows us to go after the bad guys rather than trying to make it harder for the law-abiding to defend themselves. Funding to harden the schools is a no-brainer. And mental health funding fits in nicely with our long-standing belief that “the problem isn’t too many guns. It’s too many crazy people.”

As I said above, the “red flag” provision is problematic and will need to be monitored closely. But at least it didn’t wind up being a federal red flag law. It incentivizes the states to pass their own red flag laws. Some will be worse than others, of course, but that one was going to be hard to beat. It also closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which will be open to abuse, but likely won’t be enough to sink the bill.

And what didn’t make the list? No “assault weapons” ban. No raising of the minimum age to buy certain long rifles. Those were the big-ticket items that Joe Biden and the Democrats were driving for, but there weren’t going to be 10 GOP votes to pass the bill if they had been included.

There are already celebrations taking place over this, as demonstrated at The Hill last night. That was to be expected since the Democrats have been able to pass basically nothing except COVID relief since taking power and they’re probably fainting from excitement at the idea of passing anything with the word “gun” in it. The one person who may not be celebrating for long is John Cornyn, however. I have to wonder how happy the conservatives in Texas who put him in power will be about the idea of him leading the charge on anything that is tied to gun control. Time will tell. Of course, he’s not up for election again until 2026 and he’ll be 74 then so nobody will blame him if he heads for the exits if his support seems dicey.