Ghastly shootings, political forces align to prompt gun deal

Jun 22, 2022, 3:37 AM | Updated: Jun 23, 2022, 9:36 am
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has led the Democrats in bipartisan Senate talks to rein in gun vio...

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has led the Democrats in bipartisan Senate talks to rein in gun violence, talks to reporters, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Senate bargainers reached agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill yesterday, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer predicting Senate approval later this week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The country has long endured a numbing succession of mass shootings at schools, places of worship and public gathering places. None forced Congress to react with significant legislation — until now.

Last month, a white shooter was accused of racist motives in the killings of 10 Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. Another gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The slayings of shoppers and school children just 10 days apart — innocents engaged in every day activities — helped prompt a visceral public demand for Congress to do something, lawmakers of both parties say. Bargainers produced a bipartisan gun violence bill that the Senate is moving toward approving later this week, with House action expected sometime afterward.

Here’s a look at the confluence of factors that helped to produce a compromise.

REPUBLICAN MOTIVATION

This is an election year. Republicans are favored to take over the House, now narrowly controlled by Democrats, and have a solid chance of capturing the 50-50 Senate.

To reinforce their chances, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., knows they need to attract moderate voters like suburban women who will decide competitive races in states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina.

Taking steps aimed at reducing mass shootings helps the GOP demonstrate it is responsive and reasonable — an image tarnished by former President Donald Trump and the hard-right deniers of his 2020 election defeat.

Underscoring the focus he prefers, McConnell lauded the gun agreement by pointedly telling reporters Wednesday that it takes significant steps to address “the two issues that I think it focuses on, school safety and mental health.”

The bill would spend $8.6 billion on mental health programs and over $2 billion on safety and other improvements at schools, according to a cost estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysts estimated its overall cost at around $13 billion, more than paid for by budget savings it also claims.

But it also makes the juvenile records of gun buyers aged 18 to 20 part of background checks required to buy firearms, bars guns for convicted domestic abusers not married to or living with their victims and strengthens penalties for gun trafficking. It finances violence prevention programs and helps states implement laws that help authorities temporarily take guns from people deemed risky.

DEMOCRATS WANT MIDDLE GROUND, TOO

The measure lacks stronger curbs backed by Democrats like banning the assault-style rifles used in Buffalo, Uvalde and other massacres and the high-capacity ammunition magazines those shooters used.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that this time, Democrats decided they would not “hold a vote on a bill with many things we would want but that had no hope of getting passed.” That’s been the pattern for years.

Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, led negotiators in talks that lasted four weeks. Their accord is Congress’ most important gun violence measure since the now-expired assault weapons ban enacted in 1993.

For almost 30 years, “both parties sat in their respective corners, decided it was politically safer to do nothing than to take chances,” Murphy told reporters. He said Democrats needed to show “we were willing to put on the table some things that brought us out of our comfort zone.”

GUN RIGHTS VOTERS

Gun rights defenders are disproportionately Republican, and the party crosses them at its own risk. Trump, possibly gearing up for a 2024 presidential run, issued a statement calling the compromise “the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY.”

McConnell took pains to say that the measure “does not so much as touch the rights of the overwhelming majority of American gun owners who are law-abiding citizens of sound mind.”

Even so, the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups oppose the compromise in what will be a test of their influence.

Supporting this legislation may not doom Republicans with pro-gun voters.

McConnell and Cornyn have talked about GOP polling showing that gun owners overwhelmingly back many of the bill’s provisions. And those voters are likely to be angry about sky-high gasoline prices and inflation and could vote Republican anyway.

WINS FOR BOTH SIDES

Around two-thirds of the Senate’s 50 Republicans are expected to oppose the gun measure. But congressional approval would be a GOP win by hindering Democrats from using gun violence in their campaigns, said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “Taking this off the table as a potential issue for Democrats puts the focus squarely back on inflation again and the economy,” Newhouse said.

Not so, says Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin. He said approval will let Democrats tout an accomplishment running Congress and demonstrate they can work across party lines. Democrats can still campaign against Republicans for opposing tougher measures like assault weapons curbs, issues where “Democrats clearly have the high political ground,” Garin said.

Fourteen Republicans including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted Tuesday to move the legislation a step toward passage. It is probably telling that she and Indiana Sen. Todd Young were the only two facing reelection this fall. Three are retiring and eight including McConnell, Cornyn and Tillis don’t run again until 2026.

WHAT LAWMAKERS HEARD

Senators say they’ve been struck by a different mood back home.

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said some people he’s long known told him that “maybe it’s time to take my kids out of this country,” which he called incredible. “That they would even consider that possibility tells you how desperate families are” after the recent shootings.

“What I heard for the first time was, ‘Do something,'” Murkowski said. “And it wasn’t, ‘Ban this, do that,’ it was, ‘Do something.'”

That wasn’t true for everyone. Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, where guns are widely popular, said of his constituents, “They want to make sure their Second Amendment rights are defended,” the constitutional provision that lets people keep firearms.

___

Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A military person patrols a the start of the work on the first part of a 180 kilometers (115 miles)...
Associated Press

Poland completes Belarus border wall to keep migrants out

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A year after migrants started crossing into the European Union from Belarus to Poland, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is expected to visit the border area on Thursday to mark the completion of a new steel wall. On Friday, Polish authorities will also lift a state of emergency along the border […]
24 hours ago
A part of a mortar shell lays on a road in Yahidne village, as civilians rebuild their homes after ...
Associated Press

‘We cannot pause our lives’: Ukrainians begin rebuilding

YAHIDNE, Ukraine (AP) — On the outskirts of a Ukrainian village stand the remnants of a small school that was partially destroyed in the early weeks of the Russian invasion. Surrounded by tall pine trees, the school’s broken windows offer glimpses of abandoned classrooms that are unlikely to see students again anytime soon. It is […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Stewart and Mitchell clash in Seattle-Indiana matchup

Indiana Fever (5-16, 2-11 Eastern Conference) at Seattle Storm (12-7, 6-5 Western Conference) Seattle; Friday, 10 p.m. EDT BOTTOM LINE: Breanna Stewart and Kelsey Mitchell meet when Seattle takes on Indiana. Stewart is first in the WNBA averaging 21.5 points per game and Mitchell ranks third in the league averaging 19.2 points per game. The […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

India Hindus begin pilgrimage in Kashmir amid heavy security

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Thousands of Hindu devotees began an annual pilgrimage Thursday through mountain passes and meadows to an icy Himalayan cave in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid heavy security in the Muslim-majority region. Officials say pilgrims face heightened threat of attacks from rebels fighting against Indian rule and have for the first time tagged devotees […]
24 hours ago
FILE - A man walks near an advertisement of a Kirin brand beer in Tokyo on Aug. 25, 2020.  Kirin Ho...
Associated Press

Japan’s Kirin to sell Myanmar Brewery to sanctioned partner

BANGKOK (AP) — Kirin Holdings will sell its shares in Myanmar Brewery to its joint venture partner Myanma Economic Holdings Plc., the Japanese beverage giant said in a statement Thursday. Kirin said the share buyback agreement with MEHL, a company facing sanctions by the U.S. and other Western governments, took into account its employees and […]
24 hours ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at a fo...
Associated Press

Asia stocks mixed after Wall St down, China manufacturing up

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday after the U.S. economy contracted and China reported stronger factory activity. Shanghai and Hong Kong gained, while Tokyo and Seoul declined. Oil prices advanced. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index edged down 0.1% on Wednesday after data showed the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Ghastly shootings, political forces align to prompt gun deal