In Buffalo, New York today President Joe Biden reiterated his call for Congress to take up his anti-gun wish list, including a ban on modern sporting rifles, but there appears to be little-to-no appetite among Senate Democrats to follow suit. On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re taking a closer look at the political calculations being made on Capitol Hill and why they’re likely to lead to continued disappointment for the gun control lobby.
First, Biden’s call to disarm, which even the Associated Press treated fairly perfunctorily.
The Bidens met privately with families of the victims, first responders and local officials before the president delivered public remarks.
“Jill and I have come to stand with you, and to the families, we have come to grieve with you,” Biden said. He called for stricter gun laws and urged Americans to reject racism and embrace the nation’s diversity.
It’s a message that Biden has delivered several times since he became the first president to specifically address white supremacy in an inaugural speech, calling it “domestic terrorism that we must confront.” However, such beliefs remain an entrenched threat at a time when his administration has been focused on addressing the pandemic, inflation and the war in Ukraine.
According to the New York Times, the only specific gun control proposal that Biden mentioned today was a ban on modern sporting rifles, which is going nowhere in Congress. And you don’t have to believe me. Even Dick Durbin says so.
- “You know as well as I it takes 60 votes on anything controversial and that is controversial. So we’re kind of stuck where we are at the time being,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “We’re realists. We know where we are. It’ll take an election to change.”
If he thinks the next election is going to be game change for gun control, I’ve got bad news for him. While it’s entirely possible that Democrats could end up with a net gain of a Senate seat or two in November, it’s looking increasingly likely that Republicans will at least take back the House and are in a good position to take control of the Senate as well. There’s virtually no shot of Democrats getting to 60 votes in the Senate, and even if they picked up a couple of new senators who are willing to go along with nuking the filibuster in order to pass gun control bills with a simple majority, if they’re not in control of the House as well it becomes a moot point.
Still, it’s odd to see Democrats seemingly giving up on holding a vote, even if it’s doomed to failure, especially after Chuck Schumer put his caucus on the spot by holding a vote to codify the right to an abortion in federal law just a few days ago. Apparently they’ve decided that focusing on the white supremacist ideology espoused by the suspect in the Buffalo shooting is a better election strategy.
Democrats said they don’t see any way to win over enough Republicans to pass gun control legislation, which Democrats have long said might be necessary but doesn’t go nearly far enough. Republicans said Monday they don’t see much for Congress to do, although they floated the idea of some legislation addressing the mental health issues that may have driven gunmen to commit mass killings.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he’d “be surprised” if his past talks with Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to close a loophole on background checks are revived. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. V.) said there is no path for his narrow background check legislation with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), which failed in 2013 and again in 2015.
- Senate Democratic leaders have indicated they have no plans to bring up gun legislation. In a clear shift in strategy, Democrats are directing their message to focus on the racist “great replacement theory” and other bigoted arguments that apparently motivated the Buffalo shooter and have also been embraced by some Republicans and conservative commentators.
Even the most ardent gun control activists in the Senate don’t seem to be pushing for a vote on Biden’s gun ban. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, who co-founded the gun control group Giffords with his wife after she was shot in a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011, hasn’t made any public call for a gun ban since the shooting in Buffalo, which is highly unusual but apparently part of Kelly’s campaign strategy of trying to be as non-controversial as possible in the build-up to Election Day in November. Instead, he too is following the party’s directive in keeping the focus on white supremacy.
This weekend's shooting in Buffalo was an act of pure hatred. White supremacy has no place in our society and such bigotry must always be condemned.
— Senator Mark Kelly (@SenMarkKelly) May 17, 2022
Kelly’s Twitter followers were far more vocal in demanding an attempt to ban modern sporting rifles than the senator, who couldn’t even bring himself to use a #gunsense hashtag on the sole posting about the Buffalo shooting.
When even Mark Kelly isn’t willing to step up and demand a vote on Biden’s gun ban plan, you know it’s going absolutely nowhere in Congress, which begs the question: why is Biden asking for something even his fellow Democrats aren’t willing to do, other than to check the gun control box before moving on to what he hopes will be a more fruitful line of attack against Republicans this fall?