Gun control groups are urging the Senate to pass Democrats’ gun bills aftermass shootingsat Atlanta-area spas left eight dead.
Advocates for stricter gun laws want Congress to prioritize Democratic-led bills that would expand background checks on gun sales, prevent domestic abusers from owning firearms and ban assault weapons. They’ve also called attention to therecent spike in violent crimesagainst Asian Americans. Six of Tuesday’s shooting victims were women of Asian descent, according to local authorities.
Gun control groupshave their eyes on the Senate, which is set to take up a pair of gun bills passed by the House last week. Democrats’H.R. 8, which drew eight Republican supporters, would require background checks on private gun sales. Theother bill, which passed with two Republican votes, would give authorities 10 days to run background checks before a gun sale can be completed. Under current law, if background checks are not done within three days, the sale may proceed.
House Democrats were alsoexpected to reauthorizethe Violence Against Women Act Wednesday, which isopposed bytheNational Rifle Associationover a provision that prevents convicted domestic abusers from owning firearms.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters last week that Democrats’ gun control bills will be voted on to put Republicans on the record. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on gun violence on Tuesday. Democrats have also introduced a bill that would ban assault weapons.
The Senate has been elusive for gun control advocates. The closest the Senate came to passing gun control legislation was in 2013, shortly after the devastating Sandy Hook shooting. Sens.Joe Manchin(D-W.Va.) andPat Toomey(R-Pa.) sponsored a bill to expand background checks that fell just a few votes short of the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Gun control groups, emboldened by Democrats’ 2020 wins and the NRA’srecent struggles, are hoping this time will be different.
“Democrats are in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. The NRA is in the weakest shape it’s ever been,” John Feinblatt, president ofEverytown for Gun Safetytoldthe Associated Press. “It’s become clear that gun-safety laws aren’t only good life-saving policies, they’re good politics.”
For decades, the NRA and othergun rights groupshad far more influence in Washington than groups pushing for stricter gun laws. But following a wave of mass shootings, gun control groupsoutspent gun rights groupsfor the first time in the 2018 midterms to elect Democrats. Everytown for Gun Safety has emerged as a powerful force afterreceiving millionsfrom some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, including Michael Bloomberg and Connie Ballmer, wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
The NRA regained its footing in 2020, spending $29 million to gun control groups’ $23.5 million. But the NRA lost many of its biggest bets, spendingjust 18 percentof that money on winning candidates. The group spent $16.5 million backing former PresidentDonald Trumpover PresidentJoe Biden, and nearly $6 million in theGeorgia runoffsthat ultimately handed Democrats control of the Senate.
The NRA has been plagued by legal battles and lower revenues in recent years. The groupfiled for bankruptcyin January, attempting to move to Texas to avoid a corruption investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The NRA’slobbying spendingfell to just $2.2 million in 2020, its lowest total in over a decade.
Still, the group has been aggressively pushing Republicans to reject Democrats’ gun bills,calling them“a transparent attempt by gun control advocates in Congress to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans under the guise of addressing the violent criminal culture in America.”
Some Democrats have expressed interest in getting Republicans on board with expanded background checks. They point to arecent Morning Consult pollfinding that 84 percent of Americans support a measure requiring background checks on all gun purchases.
Still, the measure was even more popular in 2019, when theNRA convinced Trumpto oppose expanded background checks, effectively killing the bill in the then-Republican Senate. That’s why prominent Democrats don’t believe they can win 10 GOP senators over. House Majority WhipJim Clyburn(D-S.C.) is urging Democrats to remove the filibuster and pass the bills with a simple majority. Schumertold reporterslast week that if Republicans aren’t on board, Democrats would “come together as a caucus and figure out how we’re going to get this done.”
Under current filibuster rules, Republicans can easily block most Democratic priorities from becoming law. Manchin hasconsistently statedhe will not vote to eliminate the filibuster, butsaid he would supporta “talking filibuster” that requires senators to speak on the floor to block legislation. Bidensaid this weekhe supports that change.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin, to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on OpenSecrets.Org: The Center for Responsive Politics on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.