Gun control advocates in the U.S. House thought they’d come up with a plan to force a series of votes on some of their top anti-2A bills this session, but it looks like their efforts have run into a bipartisan roadblock that could sideline their legislation for the foreseeable future.
Last month anti-gunners launched their strategy of using a discharge petition to bring forward bills to ban so-called assault weapons, “universal” background checks, and allowing the federal government more time to conduct those checks, but in order to get the legislation onto the floor of the House they needed the votes of at least one Republican member of Congress to join in with every House Democrat. In theory that shouldn’t have been too difficult; after all, Rep. Brian Fitpatrick (R-PA) is the primary sponsor of the “universal” background check bill, but Fitzpatrick has so far balked at using the tactic… and no other Republican congresscritter has stepped up to replace him.
“We’ve passed that bill multiple times. The background check bill, red flag laws — I voted for the assault weapons ban. But at some point, we need to start thinking about getting things done rather than sending messages across the floor of the House,” Fitzpatrick said. “I really object to that, because it’s a very intellectually dishonest way of proceeding when you don’t have any strategy to navigate 60 votes in the Senate.”
Fitzpatrick said he is working on trying to come up with compromise legislation that can get support from Republicans and pass in the Senate, but he said it is a “sensitive issue.”
“Every single time we pass this bill, everyone’s like, ‘Our work’s done.’ It’s not done. If you actually care about getting it done, go over there and figure out how to get 60 votes. If you’re not doing that, what are you doing? That’s what’s very frustrating about a lot of these games being played,” Fitzpatrick said.
Other moderate Republicans expressed skepticism as well.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) — who called Fitzpatrick one of his “best friends” — said he would “probably not” sign on to the Democratic-led effort but suggested he would look into the matter.
“I would be willing to read what Fitz has,” he later added, “so I won’t say out of hand I wouldn’t do it ‘cause I just don’t know the details of it.”
He pointed out the nuanced nature of background check legislation.
“Expanding background checks has a lot of different possibilities,” Bacon said. “I’m for upgrading our background checks ‘cause the FBI has databases. But if you’re gonna make me do a background check on my son, which was in the Democrats’ bill last cycle, that’s going too far. So it just depends what the details are.”
Fitzpatrick’s objections raise a serious question, especially since he’s complaining about “games being played”: why bother to introduce a bill that you admit doesn’t have the votes for passage in the Senate? Isn’t that just playing another game of your own making?
Another problem for the anti-gunners in the House is the fact that a handful of Democrats are also uncommitted to the discharge petition strategy, including Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. Every Democrat that refuses to join in means that another vote must be found on the other side of the aisle, and with four Democrats either on the fence or objecting to the discharge petition and no Republicans in support (at least at the moment), it looks like the anti-gun trial balloon is going to crash and burn like the Hindenburg coming in for a landing.
While The Hill‘s report pours cold water over the Democrats’ anti-2A plans, Fitzpatrick and Bacon’s comments are still a concern for Second Amendment advocates because they suggest that “moderate” Republicans are still looking for some gun-centric legislation they can use to tell voters that they’re addressing their concerns about violent crime when they should be focused on the criminals themselves. There’s no middle ground to be found in blaming responsible gun owners for the actions of monsters and cowardly killers, but there’s still a danger that a handful of Republicans will join with anti-gun Democrats to “do something” before the midterms that will end up taking another bite out of our Second Amendment rights.