Gun Laws
February 17, 2020

Virginia lawmakers handed a victory to gun-rights activists Monday, killing a key part of Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) gun-control agenda. The State Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill, which would have banned the sale of assault-style weapons and possession of high-capacity magazines, and handed the legislation over to the Virginia Crime Commission to be studied, saying "there were too many questions about the definition of assault weapon," The Washington Post reports.

Surprisingly, four of Northam's fellow Democrats sided with Republicans on the decision. As The Associated Press reports, "Virginia is the current epicenter of the country's heated debate over guns," especially as Democrats last year flipped the General Assembly blue for the first time in more than 20 years. Northam campaigned hard for increased gun control, and this bill was one of eight in a package he rolled out after a shooter killed 12 people in Virginia Beach last year.

Still, opposition to the proposed assault weapon ban has been fierce, with gun-rights activists numbering in the tens of thousands protesting at the state Capitol last month and "Second Amendment sanctuaries" popping up all over the state.

"Moderate Democrats in the state Senate have said for weeks they are uncomfortable passing legislation that would affect so many current gun owners," AP reports. Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D) called the Democrats who sided with Republicans on the bill a "bunch of wimps." Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said "We will be back next year." Jessica Hullinger

September 12, 2019

The chief executives of 145 major U.S. companies are sending Senate leaders a letter on Thursday urging them to pass new laws expanding background checks to all gun purchases and enacting stronger "red flag" laws, according to The New York Times, which saw a draft of the letter. The House has already passed similar bills, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he won't allow votes on them unless President Trump explicitly backs them. "Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety," the business leaders write.

The CEOs who signed the letter lead companies including Levi Strauss, Twitter, Uber, Lyft, the Gap, Airbnb, Brookfield Property Group, Royal Caribbean, Pinterest, and two financial companies with possibly relevant ties: Thrive Capital, founded by Joshua Kushner, Jared Kushner's brother; and Bain Capital, cofounded by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Many of the companies that did not sign — including Apple, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — had robust debate, opting not to because of concerns about current scrutiny by congressional Republicans or out of fear that gun fanatics would accost their employees, the Times reports. Walmart wrote its own letter to Congress a week ago, urging debate on a new assault weapons ban.

"To a certain extent, these CEOs are putting their businesses on the line here, given how politically charged this is," Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh told the Times. The "tide is turning" in public opinion, and "business leaders are not afraid to get engaged now," added Blergh, who helped organize the letter. "CEOs are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business and gun violence is impacting everybody's business now." Peter Weber

August 20, 2019

"After the back-to-back attacks in Dayton and El Paso, this president once again signaled he was open to tougher background checks to help curb gun violence," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night. "But once again, he's lost his spine." On Sunday, Trump was noncommittal and evasive, telling reporters that the U.S. already has "very strong background checks right now," echoing messaging from the National Rifle Association.

Cuomo pointed to internal congressional Republican talking points on gun legislation, including falsely blaming "violence from the left" and claiming universal background checks are a Democratic ploy to start a federal gun registry with an eye toward seizing guns. His guest, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the NRA has gotten to Trump.

NRA officials have lobbied Trump and his top aides since Dayton and El Paso, arguing that background checks aren't effective at preventing mass shootings and that many states Trump needs to win in 2020 are rich in NRA members who don't want new gun restrictions, White House aides and other sources tell The Washington Post. Also, "Trump's campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month's shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats." An unidentified White House official insisted to the Post that "the president is not backing down."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told advisers he won't allow consideration of gun legislation unless Trump is fully on board and it has widespread Senate Republican backing; Trump seems keen to let the Senate take the lead. "I think he personally wants to do something," Brendan Buck, a top aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Post, "but I'm not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about." Peter Weber

August 15, 2019

An overwhelming 90 percent bipartisan majority favors expanding background checks to all gun buyers in a Fox News poll released late Wednesday, and 81 percent support "red flag" laws to remove guns from people deemed a danger to themselves and others. Perhaps more surprisingly, 67 percent of voters surveyed favor banning assault-style rifles and other semiautomatic weapons, up from 60 percent last year. The poll was conducted Aug. 11-13, about a week after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

That two-thirds majority that favors an assault weapons ban includes 53 percent of people living in a gun-owner household, 58 percent of independents, and 86 percent of Democrats; Republicans are split 46 percent to 46 percent, versus 41-56 percent opposed in a 2018 Fox News poll.

A majority of voters (56 percent) placed a great deal of blame for mass shootings on easy access to guns and inadequate mental health services for people with violent tendencies, while 40 percent blamed expressions of white nationalism, 34 percent blamed Trump's rhetoric, and 39 percent — including 54 percent of Republicans — blamed bad parenting. By a margin of 60 percent to 17 percent, voters told Fox News pollsters that a mass shooting by an American citizen is a bigger threat than Islamist terrorist attacks. Seventy-one percent said the government has the ability to reduce gun violence; 42 percent said there's no chance Congress will act on it this year.

The poll was conducted via phone by Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Co. (R) among 1,013 registers voters nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of ±3 percentage points for all registered voters. Peter Weber

August 6, 2019

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) announced his support for "restricting military-style weapon sales, magazine limits, and red flag legislation." Turner is a former mayor of Dayton, where a 24-year-old gunman murdered nine people early Sunday, and represents the city in Congress. "I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential," he wrote in a statement. The Dayton shooter, who was killed by police, carried an AR-15 style rifle and a 100-round magazine, and may have had 250 rounds on him. When he started firing, Turner's daughter was at a bar across the street.

"Red flag" laws, which are gaining support among congressional Republicans, would let authorities "quickly identify people who are dangerous and remove their ability to harm others," Turner said. Turner, who has a 93 percent rating from the NRA, voted against a bill to expand background checks that passed the House in February.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) also urged the GOP-controlled state Legislature to pass "red flag" legislation, require background checks for almost all gun sales in Ohio, increase programs to identify mental health risks, ramp up the monitoring of social media, and other measures. "We know there's going to be some violence; it's the world we live in," DeWine said. "But I can tell you this: If we do these things, it will matter. If we do these things, it will make us safer." DeWine said a ban on military-style weapons would be politically impossible in Ohio.

DeWine's proposals face an uncertain future. His GOP predecessor, former Gov. John Kasich, proposed a similar package of gun laws last year, following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and when the GOP legislature voted instead to expand gun owner rights, Kasich vetoed the law. Ohio Democrats urged the governor and legislative leaders to include them in crafting the legislation, noting that Democrats have already introduced bills this year that would accomplish some of what DeWine proposed. Peter Weber

August 5, 2019

The murders of at least 29 people and injury of 50 more in two mass shootings over the weekend prompted an unusually serious and somewhat surprising meeting of the editorial minds at New York's rival tabloids on Monday. The more liberal New York Daily News used Monday's front-page real estate to focus on the gun used in the Dayton, Ohio, fatal shooting of nine people by a 24-year-old white male.

The more conservative New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, focused on the mass shooting in El Paso by a 21-year-old white male — and it called on President Trump to "ban assault weapons now."

"Two mass shootings within 24 hours in El Paso and Dayton, days after the Garlic Festival killings," the Post said in Monday's front page editorial. "Three months after Virginia Beach, six months after Aurora, nine months after Thousand Oaks, 10 months after Tree of Life, 15 months after Santa Fe HS, 18 months after Parkland, and in the wake of larger horrors like the Vegas concert and Pulse nightclub massacres." Trump tweeted "God bless the people of El Paso, Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio," the Post notes, adding:

God save us all, sir. People all across the nation are scared; many feel like the country is spinning out of control. They're looking to their leaders for more than prayers. America is terrified.

President Trump, you are positioned to assuage that fear. On gun control, you are a pragmatic centrist. ... Come up with answers. Now. Beginning with the return of an assault-weapons ban. [New York Post]

The editorial urged Trump to ignore the NRA, which is "falling apart at the seams these day," and "appeal now to the (much more numerous) Americans who hunt or keep guns for self-defense but are appalled by the endless string of mass shootings." Read the entire editorial at the New York Post. Peter Weber

October 6, 2017

Advocates of stricter gun regulations in the U.S. frequently point to Australia, which reacted the the mass murder of 35 people in 1996 by banning all automatic and semiautomatic firearms, buying back guns, and requiring those firearms that remained to be registered and stored safely. Tim Fischer, the conservative former deputy prime minister who pushed through the law with Prime Minister John Howard, told Vox on Thursday that "it was very hard work persuading people to surrender their guns," but he made his case publicly, "the Australian people chose to step back from laissez-faire dysfunctionality, which now exists in the USA," and "the results speak for themselves."

Early Friday, conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull posted a video touting his government's efforts to bolster Howard and Fischer's gun legacy, noting that since he took office, the gun amnesty has taken 51,000 guns "off the streets" and "out of harm's way, so they can't be used in a crime."

Turnbull — who got off to a famously rocky start with President Trump — did not mention America or tag Trump, but he did share his video on Trump's favorite social medium, five days after a gunman shot dead at least 58 people in Las Vegas. Trump — whom the NRA spent more than $30 million to help elect — has shrugged off talk of new gun regulations in the wake of Sunday's deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Since 1996, Australia has had zero mass shootings, defined as more than four people shot dead. Peter Weber

June 20, 2016

On Monday, the Senate considered four measures to revamp gun laws — two put forth by Democrats and two by Republicans — and each failed to get the 60 votes needed to progress. All four votes were mostly along party lines, as each party staked out its ground after the Orlando nightclub mass shooting and before November elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats, who had demanded the votes on gun control measures, were pushing a "partisan agenda." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), saying that 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks, shot back that "Senate Republicans ought to be embarrassed, but of course they're not — they're not embarrassed because the NRA is happy."

Senators voted 47-53 against a measure from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would have allowed the attorney general to block suspected terrorists from purchasing guns and explosives, and 53-47 for an alternate proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would let officials delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for three days while a judge considered blocking the sale. The Senate also rejected a Democratic-backed measure to require background checks for all gun sales or transfers, including at gun shows, 44-56, and 53-47 for a GOP alternative from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that merely increased funding for federal background checks and also tweaked language that bans some people with mental health issues from buying guns. Each vote was mostly along party lines.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is working on one more proposal that would block people on two specific FBI terrorist watch lists from buying firearms and alert the FBI if someone on either the "no fly list" or "selectee list" in the past five years tried to buy a gun. Some moderates in both parties are participating in talks on the Collins measure. You can watch Democrats respond to the four votes on Monday in a vide from The Associated Press below. Peter Weber

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