Texas school shooting: Red flag laws, background checks on Senate table, but path to passage unclear

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Amid grief and outrage after 21 people were killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, federal lawmakers said background checks and red flag legislation could be on the table. table.

Many senators, including Republicans, say they are open to passing new legislation in response to the tragedy. But in a polarized Congress, in an election year, nearly 30 years after the last federal gun law was passed, it’s unclear whether the Senate can get the 60 votes needed.

“I’m generally inclined to think that some sort of red flag law is a good idea,” Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo, told reporters.

Police walk near Robb Elementary School after a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.
(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

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Red flag laws prohibit people the government determines to be mentally ill or pose a threat to public safety from carrying firearms.

Blunt said there was a red flag bill that nearly passed before, which he said he might be able to support. But on Wednesday morning, he said he hadn’t had more in-depth conversations with his GOP colleagues.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., speaks during a press conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican Caucus, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.  (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)
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Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., speaks during a press conference following a weekly meeting with the Senate Republican Caucus, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who would likely spearhead any mass shooting legislation, said he was optimistic the Senate would produce legislation on the red flag.

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“I think red flag status has a lot of potential,” Blumenthal said.

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would support finding a way for the federal government to push states to pass red flag laws.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during a press conference at the United States Capitol May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during a press conference at the United States Capitol May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

But several other Republican senators were supportive of the concept.

“Pat Toomey spoke earlier. Well, he hired me after I got here, and I just don’t think you’d get there doing it here,” said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., about a federal red. flag law. Braun declined to say whether he personally favors a federal red flag law, but said “it will be more effective state by state.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he was “very skeptical about it nationally,” when asked about red flag laws, and said even some red flag laws red flag at the state level were “concerning”. Hawley further stated that he would support tougher sentencing laws.

There was also some bipartisan support for potential legislation to strengthen federal background checks on Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union address during a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the chambers of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 4, 2020 .

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address during a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the chambers of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 4, 2020 .
(Reuters)

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“What I’d like to see Chuck do is Manchin-Toomey. I think the background check is a reasonable step,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, said Wednesday. Collins also said it might be a good idea to “look at background checks as well.”

The senses. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., proposed a bill in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting to strengthen federal background checks on gun buyers in fire. Specifically, it would expand gun sales that require background checks to purchases, including at gun shows and online, rather than at gun dealers.

“It’s really a no-brainer from my point of view, to keep guns from people who are mentally ill on trial in the courts…and criminals and terrorists,” Tester said. “I’m a big Second Amendment advocate, but I’ll tell you, doing nothing puts our Second Amendment rights at risk.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., immediately took the opportunity to get rid of the filibuster to push through a gun bill on Wednesday. But he said the most realistic chance of passing a polarized Senate bill might be if lawmakers work on something that deals with background checks. Manchin also said he might be open to a red flag law, which he says works in some states, including Florida.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.
(Sarah Silbiger/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Asked about his bill on Wednesday, Toomey said there were “ongoing conversations” but said he had no “substantial update” on whether it could be introduced.

Other Republicans, meanwhile, are avoiding going into specifics about any proposal, either to keep the air open for negotiations or simply because the shooting happened so recently. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., said “I don’t think this is the best time” to talk politics. He said he expects talks in the future.

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Sen. Thom Tillis, RN.C., said he was open to discussion and would not take anything off the table immediately. But he warned that Democrats might just be trying to get a vote on a messaging bill rather than something that has a real chance of passing — similar to an abortion bill on which the Senate voted earlier this month, which Tillis said “was a political statement.”

Another idea gaining traction with Senate Republicans on Wednesday is legislation to toughen up schools. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., told Fox News she could support that idea, and that Congress should “reuse some unspent COVID funds” for school safety grants.

Then-Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall meeting at Grinnell College, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in Grinnell, Iowa.

Then-Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall meeting at Grinnell College, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in Grinnell, Iowa.
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“We talked about a number of things, one is toughening up schools,” Sen. John Hoeven, RN.D., said after a GOP lunch meeting in the Senate. “I think there was quite a bit of interest in what we could do to strengthen schools.”

But it’s unclear whether the proposal will win support from Democrats, who are demanding action on the gun bills — not the school safety bills.

“Today we should be on the floor of the Senate with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats passing a basic gun safety law that is supported by 90% of the American people,” the court said Wednesday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

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Asked about the possible details of something that could pass the Senate, Warren replied, “Ask the Republicans. The Democrats can’t do it alone. We need Republican partners.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told the Senate on Tuesday, “We are going to vote on gun legislation. The American people are tired of moments of silence.

But conservatives, it seems, are unlikely to support legislation that adds regulations to guns or gun ownership. When asked if there were any such rules she could support, Lummis replied, “No.”

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