Democrats need to settle for a baby step in gun control.It can only help them

Sometime this spring, in an attempt to do something about gun control, the U.S. Senate revived a bill requiring people who buy guns from unlicensed dealers to undergo a federal background check, often ” It fills a gap called the “loophole in the firearms trade fair”. .. “

If it passes, this very modest measure makes buying a gun a bit more difficult for criminals, people with mental illness, and others who shouldn’t roam our city with guns. The National Rifle Association will scream about a fictitious threat to the Second Amendment to the Constitution. And liberals who support strict European firearms regulations will be disgusted by the painfully narrow ambitions of the bill.

But while the Senate’s proposal is limited to “will be the most important background check expansion in 28 years,” Jim Kessler, a centrist political group who has been working on gun control for decades, told me last week. Said to.

And that’s why the fight to get through it is worth it.

Under current law, anyone who buys a gun from a gun store or other authorized dealer must pass a federal background check. This process usually takes less than 2 minutes. However, in most states, anyone who buys a gun from an unlicensed dealer, including sellers who list their products on the Internet, does not have to pass a background check. A study by researchers at Northeastern University estimates that 22% of guns are sold as such. For example, the weapons used in the 2019 mass shootings in Midland, Texas and Odessa. (On the other hand, the suspected shootings in Georgia and Colorado last month apparently passed a federal background check, so the requirement is not a panacea.)

In February, the House of Representatives passed a stronger bill that required a background check. This requires background checks for almost anyone who obtains a gun through personal sales, loans, gifts, etc., except for acquisitions from close relatives.

But the bill cannot pass the Senate. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana, said they thought it was too wide.

Manchins and testers are not the only obstacles. The Senate’s Filibuster Rule requires approval from 60 out of 100 members to advance legislation — and the current 50-50 Senate requires at least 10 Republicans. It means that.

So we can forget about more ambitious proposals, such as the long-standing Crusaders by Senator Dianne Feinstein of D-California, to ban assault weapons. Feinstein’s bill has gained public support from just 36 members of the current Senate, far from the majority.

In light of these realities, Senate leader Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, urged allies to find a compromise that could attract Republican support. Written by friends, Manchin and Senator Patrick J. Adams, Republican Pennsylvania.

“It’s modest,” Toomey admitted last week. Still, he added, it’s “very difficult” to collect 10 Republican votes. In 2013, when Manchin-Toomey last voted, only four Republican senators supported it.

And why is this year different?

Schumer’s chief Democratic scout on the issue, Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, said Republicans could be movable this time due to increased public support for gun control.

“The NRA’s powers are declining. The effects of the anti-gun violence movement are increasing,” he claimed. “I think there is a chance.”

He is at least partially correct. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found increasing general support for tighter gun control. In addition, identification support is widespread. A Pew poll found that 88% of voters, including 82% of Republicans, agreed with this concept.

It doesn’t move Republicans from gun owners, well-organized, and loudly noisy local states. But the Democratic promotion is aimed at moderate voters, especially Republicans in urban and suburban states who need help from women to retain their seats, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who will be reelected next year. And. In 2018, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Parkland, 96% of Floridians supported identification, according to a study.

If the Republican Party sinks the bill, Schumer plans to use it against the Republican Party in next year’s campaign.

“There will be a vote,” he promised last week. “They are feeling the heat … They won’t be able to hide anymore.”

So, from Schumer’s point of view, this is a useful fight — win or lose? And putting Republicans on the hotseat gives Democrats another reason to support the compromise. Even if it’s not much tougher than many of them like.

Doyle McManus is a Los Angeles Times columnist.

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