Democrats vowed to act after the United States witnessed two mass shootings in the past week, but despite their congressional majorities the chance at any major legislative changes remains extraordinarily slim.
“This Senate will be different,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a day after a shooter killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, and less than a week after a shooter killed eight people at three massage parlors in Atlanta. “The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”
“We have to act,” said President Joe Biden Tuesday, urging Congress to close background check loopholes and ban assault weapons. “It should not be a partisan issue. It will save lives, American lives.”
While the Senate will likely vote on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, two gun control bills that passed the House last week, they would both need 60 votes to overcome an all but certain Republican filibuster. There is even division among Democrats, as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin came out against both bills Tuesday.
“No, I don’t support what the House passed,” Manchin told CNN Tuesday. “Not at all.”
“I’m basically where [Pennsylvania Republican Sen.] Pat Toomey and I have been,” he added, invoking a bipartisan legislative package that narrowly fell to a filibuster in 2013. “The most reasonable responsible gun piece of legislation, called Gun Sense, which is basically saying that [only] commercial transactions should be background checked.”
The Senate has not passed any expansive gun control legislation since 1994, when former President Bill Clinton signed a 10-year assault weapons ban into law. And while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a GOP press conference Tuesday that he was “certainly open” to discussing gun control legislation, it is unclear if any substantial bipartisan discussions will arise.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on gun control legislation, Republicans showed little interest in adopting any reform, even as polling has showed support from an overwhelming majority of Americans.
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater,” said Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. “What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens … what they propose, not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse.”