“We can’t even get background checks”: Democrats already “caved” in gun bill negotiations with GOP

"They gave up even before there was going to be a modicum of legislative fight or advocacy," ex-Senate aide says

Published June 6, 2022 10:23AM (EDT)

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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While warning that lawmakers' continued inaction on gun control legislation will have "significant consequences" for democracy in the U.S., Sen. Chris Murphy on Sunday also tempered expectations regarding the ongoing bipartisan negotiations that began in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas late last month.

The Connecticut Democrat, a longtime advocate for gun control reform, told Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" that lawmakers have been discussing laws that were passed in Florida in 2018 following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, after which young survivors of the attack mobilized to demand action from policymakers.

The laws passed in Florida raised the age to purchase long guns, including AR-15s, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period for purchases; allowed law enforcement to take firearms away from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others; and made investments in mental health and school security.

They also created a program allowing trained school staff to carry firearms, something Republicans have pushed for after a number of recent school shootings, including the one that killed 19 children and two adults on May 24 in Uvalde.

The laws have been credited with removing guns from the possession of thousands of people deemed a threat.

"The template for Florida is the right one. Which is do some significant mental health investment, some school safety money and some modest, but impactful, changes in gun laws," Murphy said. "That's the kind of package we're putting together right now. That's the kind of package I think can pass the Senate."

Notably, the proposals Democrats and Republicans are discussing do not appear to include expanded background checks for gun buyers, despite the fact that 88% of Americans support universal background checks.

Last week Murphy suggested an expansion of background checks could be included in a package, while an assault weapons ban—which has existed in the U.S. in the past, has been linked to a reduction in mass shootings, and is backed by 67% of Americans—was said to be left out of the discussions, prompting outcry from gun control advocates.

President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to pass a ban on assault weapons last week in an address to the nation, asking "how much more carnage are we willing to accept?" as he also called for strengthened background checks and other reforms.

On Sunday, Murphy suggested expanded background checks may be taken off the table, but said "changes to our background check system, to improve the existing system" may still be discussed.

"We're not going to do everything I want," Murphy told Tapper. "We're not going to put a piece of legislation on the table that's going to ban assault weapons, or we're not going to pass comprehensive background checks. But right now, people in this country want us to make progress."

Political strategist Murshed Zaheed denounced Democratic lawmakers who have apparently "caved" on universal background checks—not long ago "considered a milquetoast, moderate position on gun control."

"They gave up even before there was going to be a modicum of legislative fight or advocacy," Zaheed said.

The U.S. House has already passed a bill expanding background checks to nearly all gun sales.

As senators met to discuss gun control on Saturday, Murphy noted on social media that since the shooting in Uvalde less than two weeks ago, there have been more than 20 mass shootings in the U.S. with more than 90 people injured and at least 19 killed.

On Saturday night three people were killed and 11 were injured in a shooting in an entertainment district in downtown Philadelphia, and early Sunday morning at least three people were shot to death and 14 were injured by gunfire near a nightclub in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"Twenty-eight mass shootings in less than two weeks since Uvalde and we can't even get background checks included in a bipartisan gun reform package," said progressive political strategist Sawyer Hackett.

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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