Joe Biden enters gun control fray, Senate talks seek breakthrough


President Biden met Tuesday with a Democratic senator leading negotiations on gun control legislation — as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would allow more time for both parties to come to an agreement.

Two weeks after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, there is no sign of any legislative response to the tragedy.

House Democrats have pitched a package of bills — including proposals to raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, outlaw high-capacity magazines, strengthen gun storage requirements and combat so-called “ghost guns” — that are doomed to fail in the Senate due to unanimous Republican opposition.

President Biden puts Tuesday with Sen. Chris Murphy, who is leading negotiations on gun control legislation.
REUTERS

Two House-passed bills expanding background checks on would-be firearm owners are also languishing before the Senate and would fail if they were brought to a vote.

Meanwhile, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are heading up talks aimed at more incremental changes to America’s gun laws.

Photos showed Biden and Murphy walking and talking outside the White House Tuesday before sitting down to chat some more at a small table outside the Oval Office.

Senator Chris Murphy at a rally.
Meaning. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are leading talks aimed at incremental changes to America’s gun laws.
EPA

Ahead of the meeting, Murphy told reporters that negotiations are entering a “pretty critical stage, so I thought it would be important to just come over and fill him in on where our discussions are.”

Schumer (D-NY), who had vowed to push ahead with show votes on the background check bills if no deal was reached by this week, said Tuesday that Murphy “has asked for space to have the talks continue, and I have given him the space.”

The majority leader added that he was encouraging his Democratic colleagues to keep pushing for compromise to “come up with something that will make a meaningful change in the lives of the American people and help stop gun violence” while adding: “We know we’re not going to get everything we want.”

Sen.  Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Sen.  Murphy "has asked for space to have the talks continue, and I have given him the space.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Sen. Murphy “has asked for space to have the talks continue, and I have given him the space.”
AFP via Getty Images

Murphy said Sunday that Democrats and Republicans were “closer than ever before” to agreeing on a potential bill.

“We’re not going to put a piece of legislation​ on​ the table that’s going to ban assault weapons, or we’re not going to pass comprehensive background checks​,” ​the senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union. ”

“​But, right now, people in this country want us to make progress. They just don’t want the status quo to continue for another 30 years​.”

In recent weeks, Biden, Democratic lawmakers and advocates have re-upped their calls for gun control in the aftermath of the mass shootings in both Uvalde and Buffalo.

Uvalde native and Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey has even taken matters into his own hands, meeting with Meaning. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to discuss potential bipartisan responses to the massacre in his hometown.

“Had the chance to meet Uvalde native @McConaughey in DC today to discuss the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary as well as the larger problem of gun violence in America. We, like so many others, agree that gun safety reform is needed—I’ll keep working to make that happen,” Durbin tweeted.

The meetings followed a passionate op-ed the proud Texan wrote in the Austin American-Statesman in which he called for background checks for gun purchases and raising the legal age to purchase a military-style assault rifle from 18 to 21.

Even if this week’s discussions are fruitful, any gun reform legislation faces a steep climb to garner the 60 votes needed to pass in the evenly split Senate.

Congress rarely passes major gun legislation, but lawmakers in 2019 did agree to raise the national legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. Similarly, Congress voted in 1984 to force states to raise their alcohol purchasing ages to 21.

Matthew McConaughey sitting with Senator Chuck Grassley.
Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey discussed potential bipartisan responses to the school shooting with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Twitter / @ChuckGrassley

But legislation on widely agreed upon reforms can also fail to pass if talks take too long. For example, Republicans and Democrats offered rival police reform packages in 2020 in response to national unrest over the murder of George Floyd. But negotiations dragged on for more than a year, the cause lost momentum and nothing passed.

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