Within hours of the Uvalde shooting, New York Democrat and Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer stepped in to pave the way for forcing votes in the coming days on legislation that would strengthen background checks for gun buyers, urging to renewed measures of broad appeal that Republicans have blocked in the past.
The pair of bills would extend criminal background checks to would-be gun buyers on the Internet and gun shows, and extend the waiting time for gun buyers flagged by the immediate background check system, giving the FBI more time to investigate. The measures, passed by the House in 2019 and last year, have fizzled out in the Senate amid Republican opposition. Even as they publicly mourned the massacre that killed 19 children and two adults on Tuesday, Republican senators gave little indication that their views had changed.
But some Democrats said they saw hope for a bipartisan consensus on proposals that polls show overwhelming support among Americans. Regardless, many urged to force Republicans to announce the measures at a time when grief and anger over gun violence in America has reignited after Tuesday’s massacre and a recent mass shooting that left 10 dead in a supermarket. in Buffalo.
“What are we doing?” Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy asked in an emotional speech on the Senate floor. “Why are you spending all this time running for the United States Senate? Why go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, when your answer is that as the carnage increases, while our children are running for their lives, we are doing nothing?”
Murphy, who began advocating for gun safety and background check legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, said after his speech that he believed there were 10 Republican votes to make a deal. which could go through 50. -50 Senate, where it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
But it wasn’t clear if that was the case, or how soon the Democrats planned to move.
“I’m furious, I’m hurt, and I believe this could be our downfall if we don’t protect our children,” New Jersey Democrat Senator Cory Booker said.
The Republicans, who expressed disgust at the shooting, did not indicate that they would drop their longstanding opposition to gun-safety measures.
South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds said, “It’s one thing to say that regardless of the facts, you just have to do something. The question is whether something you would do would really make a difference.”
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz accused Democrats “and a lot of people in the media” for rushing to “try to limit the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, a centrist Democrat who has tried unsuccessfully to gain enough support for legislation to bolster background checks for gun buyers, lamented the polarization in Congress that hampered his efforts and others.
“It makes no sense why we can’t use common sense to try to prevent this,” said Mr Manchin. “It’s just incredible how we got here as a society.”
But he stopped backing what might be the only way to do it, telling reporters he continued to oppose abolishing the filibuster in order to bypass Republican opposition and pass such legislation with only Democratic votes. .
“You’d think there’s enough common sense,” said Mr. Manchin. “The filibuster is the only thing that saves us from utter madness.”