States rush past Congress to take ac­tion on guns

Mul­ti­ple bi­par­ti­san bills sit idle on Capi­tol Hill

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Some states have rushed to en­act stricter gun laws in the wake of the Park­land, Florida, school mas­sacre, but Congress is still in pre-debate mode, with plenty of pro­pos­als at­tract­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port but no firm com­mit­ments from Repub­li­can lead­ers to bring any ma­jor gun bills to the floor.

House lead­ers have sched­uled a vote next week on a mod­est bill to send tax­payer money to schools to con­duct risk and safety as­sess­ments, but it falls far short of what many Amer­i­cans had de­manded — and what states such as Ore­gon and Florida have done — af­ter the Valen­tine’s Day shoot­ing.

“It’s just the na­ture of the place,” said Sen. Marco Ru­bio, Florida Repub­li­can.

“This Congress, with 500-some­thing mem­bers, rep­re­sents a vast and di­verse coun­try, and as a re­sult there are peo­ple in different parts of the coun­try that have different views on th­ese is­sues,” he said.

His home state, where the shoot­ing hap­pened, has pushed the fur­thest. The Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a bill this week to raise the age limit for ri­fle pur­chases to 21, im­pose a min­i­mum three-day wait­ing pe­riod for most gun pur­chases and al­low some school fac­ulty to carry weapons as a de­ter­rence.

Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown, a Demo­crat, signed into law this week a mea­sure ban­ning do­mes­tic abusers or peo­ple with re­strain­ing or­ders from hav­ing guns.

More than 20 states are con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion sim­i­lar to Ore­gon’s, as well as other mea­sures that would al­low for pro­tec­tive risk or­ders and strengthen gun-pur­chase back­ground checks, ac­cord­ing to the Gif­fords Law Cen­ter to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence.

Many of those ideas are float­ing on Capi­tol Hill and have even gar­nered bi­par­ti­san sup­port. But as Congress pre­pares to en­ter its fourth week af­ter the shoot­ing, there is no sense of a time frame for ac­tion.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Car­olina Repub­li­can, said he is tired of telling peo­ple back home that they just can’t do any­thing, but he ac­knowl­edged that he didn’t know the Se­nate floor sched­ule of Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can.

“I’m not go­ing to go into my elec­tion say­ing I didn’t do some­thing,” Mr. Gra­ham said. “To the politi­cians who be­lieve that you’re go­ing to be re­warded for punt­ing on this, I think you’re mak­ing a huge mis­take.”

Mr. Gra­ham and Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, rolled out a pro­posal Thurs­day that would al­low fam­ily mem­bers and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to pe­ti­tion for court or­ders to block po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous peo­ple from ob­tain­ing guns.

Niko­las Cruz, the man au­thor­i­ties ac­cuse of killing 17 peo­ple at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School last month, had shown warning signs that he in­tended to hurt peo­ple.

Mr. Cruz, 19, legally pur­chased the AR-15-style ri­fle used to carry out the at­tack. His age has be­come a ma­jor fo­cus.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, is push­ing a bill with Sen. Di­anne Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, to in­crease the fed­er­ally im­posed min­i­mum age to buy cer­tain semi-au­to­matic weapons from 18 to 21.

Mr. Flake is also part of a bi­par­ti­san group push­ing a bill that would bar peo­ple on gov­ern­ment watch or “no fly” lists from ob­tain­ing guns.

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