The nation is reeling after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. But if there is a feeling that something is about to change on gun control in the rest of the country, it’s not yet palpable on Capitol Hill.
As lawmakers filed in after a weeklong recess, Republicans and some Democrats appeared reluctant to wade in too publicly or too quickly on a topic as contentious and politically rife as gun control.
“I don’t think we need more gun control. I think we need better idiot control,” Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana said when asked what might come next on Capitol Hill.
Even modest proposals quickly hit roadblocks Monday. A plan to incentivize states and federal agencies to enter more records into the country’s gun background check system known as Fix NICs seemed too little for Democrats while Republicans maintained it was the best first step they could offer. Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, blocked the bill from coming up under a fast-track process in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, meanwhile, released a statement Monday afternoon calling any plan to just vote on Fix NICs without more robust proposals “abject failure” and a “dereliction of our duty.”
“Democrats believe that, at a minimum, the congressional response to the Parkland shooting should include universal background check legislation that would close the gun show and internet sales loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands,” Schumer said.
But some Republicans weren’t even ready to accept the narrow plan to add more data to the background check system.
“I basically believe the Second Amendment is important to all of us and how do we work within the Second Amendment, OK?” Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said.
In the week Congress was gone, the country began the most robust dialogue it has had on gun control since the aftermath of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 with governors and even a handful of Republican members of Congress publicly re-examining past positions on high-capacity magazines, background checks and the age at which an individual can purchase a rifle.
“There’s always political risk, but at the same time, we’re talking about the lives of kids and innocent men and women and people,” said Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, in town for a gathering of the nation’s governors. “We need to have this difficult conversation and get it out in the light of day.”
But on Monday evening it seemed little, if anything, would change in the way of an appetite to tackle gun control on Capitol Hill.
Asked if he supported raising the age that individuals could purchase rifles from 18 to 21 or banning bump fire stocks, devices that make it possible to fire semiautomatic weapons like automatic ones, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said, “I’m not very enthused about those. “