Schumer gets cold feet on gun control bills?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As of this morning, Chuck Schumer sounded like he was all in on pushing for a vote on two gun control measures that have already passed the House of Representatives, though second-in-command Dick Durbin said the votes would take place after senators returned to Capitol Hill from their Memorial Day holiday.

Now, however, Schumer is signaling that there might not be a vote next week, and maybe not at any point between now and November.

What changed between last night and mid-morning? The answer may be as simple as “nothing”. With Joe Manchin insisting that he won’t nuke the filibuster and expressing hesitation about the background check bill that passed the House, Schumer may have simply come to the conclusion that holding a quick vote that not only fails but can’t even get the full support of the Democratic caucus isn’t worth the political risk. Schumer himself is telling colleagues that he’ll hold off to see if Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy can bring any Republicans on board his own gun control proposals.

“There are some who want this body to quickly vote on sensible gun safety legislation, legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans,” he said. “They want to see this body vote quickly so the American people can know which side each senator is on …. I’m sympathetic to that, and I believe that accountability votes are important.”

But Schumer said he thought that bringing gun-control legislation in the immediate aftermath of Buffalo and Uvalde, where two lone shooters left a total of 31 people dead in the span of 10 days, would be fruitless because of staunch Republican opposition to such reforms.

He noted that Republicans opposed proposals to expand background checks, ban assault-style weapons and prohibit high-capacity magazines after a gunman killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“If the slaughter of schoolchildren can’t convince Republicans to buck the NRA, what can we do?” he said, referring to the National Rifle Association.

“Sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people now knowing where their senators stand. They know. They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this issue. Crystal clear.”

Again, it’s not just Schumer’s Republican colleagues who are resistant to the House background check bill, even if the Senate Majority Leader understandably wants to pin all of the blame on the GOP by portraying them as caring more about the NRA than the lives of school children. Never mind the fact that the killer in Uvalde apparently legally purchased two rifles on his 18th birthday earlier this month, including passing a background check. Never mind that the implementation of universal background checks in states from Washington to New Mexico haven’t led to lower violent crime rates. Whether or not background checks work as a policy is irrelevant to anti-gun Democrats. Clearly what matters more is the political benefit (or lack thereof) they can derive from holding a vote on the legislation.

Even though no votes will be taken before the Senate recesses for Memorial Day, don’t think for a second that Democrats are done with their gun control plans. Beyond Murphy’s background check bill, Manchin is still stumping for a vote on his own background check legislation introduced after Sandy Hook with the support of Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and there are discussions underway about a federal “red flag” gun seizure law introduced last year by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal as well.

Though Schumer’s latest move hardly signifies a permanent retreat on the issue, some gun control activists are still irate over the senator’s backtracking.

Volsky’s also been critical of what he views as Joe Biden’s lackadaisical efforts to push his gun ban plan through Congress, but most of the bigger anti-gun groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady, and Giffords have continued to throw their support behind the executive actions that Biden has taken while calling on Congress to “do more”. We’ll see if any of them dare to criticize Schumer’s walkback, but you can rest assured that no matter what is or isn’t said publicly, they’re still lobbying behind the scenes to not only hold a vote, but to craft something that can pass the Senate and get to Joe Biden’s desk.