States rush past Congress to take action on guns
Multiple bipartisan bills sit idle on Capitol Hill
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.