Ironically, an impromptu effort to pass a gun background check bill in the Senate unanimously was cut down by a Republican senator who told fellow senators it would infringe on Second Amendment rights.
The irony is that the Senate action took place in Washington at the same time news of yet another mass shooting — this time at a California high school — was being announced in the nation’s capital.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, requested — as he’s done repeatedly for months — that the universal background check bill, H.R. 8, be passed by unanimous consent, a procedural move that allows a bill to skip several steps, including debate, to pass unanimously without senators casting an individual vote.
The vote was blocked by Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, who argued the bill should not be “exempt from consideration by the appropriate committee of jurisdiction.”
“We can’t go 24 hours without news of another mass shooting somewhere in America,” Murphy said in calling for the vote just before noon Thursday. “My kids and millions’ others hide in corners of their classroom or in their bathrooms preparing for a mass shooting at their school, and this body does nothing about it.”
Murphy said later he learned of the California high school shooting as he walked off of the Senate floor.
Two students were killed and several others were injured when a 16-year-old student armed with a .45 caliber handgun went on a shooting spree at a school in Santa Clarita Thursday morning. The shooter then shot himself in the head.
Passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last February, H.R. 8 would require background checks on all firearms sales in the country. Current federal law requires only licensed gun dealers to perform background checks for those seeking to purchase a firearm, leaving the sale of guns between individuals largely unregulated.
The bill received bipartisan support with eight Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for the legislation. Since then, universal background checks have remained stalled in the Republican-led Senate at the behest of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In September, House Democrats advanced three additional gun bills following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that left a total of 31 people dead. There was also momentum toward a bipartisan gun control package negotiated with the White House. Unfortunately, Murphy said he hadn’t heard from the Trump administration about background checks since September.
Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there is bipartisan support for one part of a gun control package — a grant program that encourages states to set up “red flag” programs that allow law enforcement officers to preemptively seize a person’s firearms if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
But he said progress on background checks has stalled, and blamed it, in part, on the House impeachment inquiry.
“Impeachment has sucked all the oxygen out. But I hope we will revisit. I really do. I am ready to do something yesterday,” Graham lamely said.
Like Graham on Thursday, Attorney General Bill Barr blamed the House impeachment hearings for derailing progress on gun control during an event in Tennessee on Wednesday, as reported by Buzzfeed.
“That’s not true,” Murphy said, addressing Barr’s comments on the Senate floor Thursday. “The impeachment proceedings right now are in the House of Representatives; the discussion on the future of the background checks bill was in the Senate.”
Republicans, Graham in particular, are offering the impeachment process as a pathetic excuse for refusing to do anything to address the growing number of mass shootings. Those unable to walk and chew gum should not be considered leaders of our nation.