- Democrats are outraged after the Uvalde school shooting. Some used profanity to express their anger.
- But Democrats have not come up with gun safety legislation that can pass Congress.
- A possible Republican filibuster in the Senate means passing any gun reform is nearly impossible.
Democratic lawmakers unleashed a deluge of rage and uncharacteristic profanity after an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas left 19 small children and two adults dead. But what they have not yet offered in the hours after the tragedy are pieces of legislation that could pass Congress.
“It’s fucking nuts to do nothing about this,” Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, another Arizona Democrat, let fly a swarm of f-bombs directed at conservatives who support greater access to guns.
“Fuck you, @NRA,” he tweeted at the powerful gun lobby.
—Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) May 24, 2022
“Just quit and let someone who actually gives a damn do it instead,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted at Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado conservative who had posted “You cannot legislate away evil” in response to calls for gun reform.
“Please, please, please, damn it, put yourself in the shoes of these parents for once,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer implored Senate Republicans, whose opposition to gun safety proposals makes passing any reforms in Congress nearly impossible.
“What are we doing?” asked Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who was sworn in just weeks after a shooter gunned down 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton.
Murphy’s question to Congress on Tuesday was a moral one, but also a practical one. What, if anything, were they going to as a legislative body to prevent killings like the ones in Uvalde?
Democrats haven’t made progress on gun safety during this Congress because of Republican opposition
In the hours since the Uvalde shooting, Democrats had yet to put forth a piece of viable legislation that could gain bipartisan consensus and pass Congress. Two Democratic senators who stand in the way of striking down the Senate filibuster, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, did not change their positions.
Sinema deflected when asked by reporters if she would consider changing her position on the filibuster to allow Democrats to force through gun safety legislation.
Instead, she signaled a desire to work with Republicans to create “an opportunity for us to actually have real conversations and try to do something.”
In a Wednesday morning floor speech, Schumer, who is responsible for putting any gun legislation up for a vote to the full Senate, blamed Republicans for standing in the way of legislation but did not propose a specific path forward or promise a vote. He told Americans to vote in November for lawmakers who supported gun safety legislation.
Later that day, he pledged, “We are GOING to vote on gun legislation,” Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman reported.
Democrats do control the House of Representatives, which only requires a simple majority vote to pass legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer pledged on Wednesday that the chamber would consider Rep. Lucy McBath’s “Extreme Risk Protection Order Act”, which she first introduced in 2019. But even if it passes the House, it’s unclear if it will win enough bipartisan support in the Senate.
—Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) May 25, 2022
The inability to pass gun safety legislation is a problem Democrats have faced for nearly a decade since Sandy Hook. But the issue has become more pronounced since they took over Congress in January 2021. Last year, America experienced 61 active shooter incidents, according to the FBI.
In March of 2021, newly in possession of both chambers of Congress, Democrats made a renewed attempt to pass gun safety legislation. Their best hope, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, passed the House but failed to advance in the Senate, where Republicans could filibuster the legislation.
That spring, there was talk of reviving a bill by Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, that would have closed a loophole that allows private sales of guns purchased at gun shows or online to evade background checks. The proposal, known as “Manchin-Toomey,” failed in 2013 in the months after Sandy Hook and hasn’t gained serious traction since.
On Wednesday, Toomey told Capitol Hill reporters he did not have any updates on the status of the legislation.
In 2021, several other proposals floated around Capitol Hill, including some authored by Republicans or introduced with bipartisan support. They included so-called red flag or extreme risk laws, which allow law enforcement or family members to request a judge temporarily prevent individuals who may harm themselves or others from possessing or buying firearms.
None of these proposals have gone anywhere during this Congress, and it’s unclear if Democrats will be able to cut a deal that will win over the 10 Republicans they would need to clear any legislative blockades in the Senate.
“My Republican colleagues can work with us now,” Schumer said in his floor speech Wednesday.
But Schumer also acknowledged the odds were against any Republican cooperation.
“I know this is a slim prospect. Very slim. All too slim,” he said. “We’ve been burnt so many times before.