US Gun Laws: assault weapons ban off the table as US Senate nears deal on ‘meaningful change’
According to a prominent Democrat negotiator, bipartisan US Senate deliberations on how or if to respond to the new series of mass shootings are near to “some commonsense moves,” but will not include restoration of the Clinton-era assault weapons prohibition.
Investments in mental health and school safety are among the alternatives on the table, according to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who is leading negotiations with Republican colleague John Cornyn..
“We are talking about a meaningful change in our gun laws, a major investment in mental health, perhaps some money for school security that would make a difference,” Senator Murphy of Connecticut told CNN’s State of the Union show.
“That’s the kind of package we’re putting together right now. That’s the kind of package I think can pass the Senate.”
Senator Murphy stated that senators involved in the current talks would not seek to prohibit the sale of assault weapons, which have been used in numerous mass shootings, including the May 24 massacre of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, or to enact a more “comprehensive” background-check system for gun buyers.
President Bill Clinton signed a 10-year ban on certain semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns classified as assault weapons into law in 1994, but it expired in 2004 and was not renewed by President George W Bush.
The current talks will continue into early this week, when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, and follow Democratic President Joe Biden’s prime-time speech last week, in which he urged lawmakers to act.
“Why in God’s name should an ordinary citizen be able to purchase an assault weapon that holds 30-round magazines that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes?” he said.
Mr. Biden was a senator in 1994 and was instrumental in that year’s assault-weapons ban passing Congress.
Researchers have found the ban had little to no effect on firearm deaths, which are normally caused by weapons not covered by the law, and there is inconclusive evidence it reduced the frequency of mass shootings.
Senator Murphy said despite abandoning any plan for a new ban on assault weapons, “I’ve never been part of negotiations as serious as these”.
“There are more Republicans at the table talking about changing our gun laws and investing in mental health than at any time since Sandy Hook,” he said.
Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican member of the negotiating group, stated that some expansion of background checks, as well as prospective “red flag” regulations that would allow states to maintain the appropriate due process, were on the table.
“I think there is a place to land that is consistent with the second amendment,” Senator Toomey said, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation program.
“It hasn’t been finally resolved but something in the space of expanding background checks I think is very — well, certainly is on the table and I hope will be part of a final package.”
The right to keep and bear weapons is protected by the US constitution’s second amendment, and Republicans support a broad interpretation of that right, opposing most new restrictions on gun ownership.
While the White House and Congress battle to come up with a solution to the recent spate of shootings, the US Supreme Court is set to rule this month on a New York case that might result in significant gun rights expansion.
“Red flag” laws allowing police to seize weapons from people with some mental illnesses have been implemented in 19 US states.
Such policies, according to gun rights activists, violate the second amendment and deny people the chance to have their cases heard in court with due process.
Senator Murphy of Connecticut, whose 26 children and instructors were massacred by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, said parents in his state were concerned.
“There’s just a deep, deep fear for our children right now,” he mentioned to CNN.
“And also a fear that government is so fundamentally broken that it can’t put politics aside to guarantee the one thing that matters most to adults in this country — the physical safety of their children.”