Following the president’s lead, Democrats in the House of Representatives are preparing to unveil a comprehensive package of bills that will seek to curb gun violence and prevent mass shootings.
In short, it’s a facsimile of the President’s plan, which was also the impetus behind the bevy of gun control bills that are now circulating the Senate.
However, unlike the Senate, the GOP-controlled House is not expected to greet the package with much fanfare.
Given this fact, Vice President Joe Biden set up a sort of pep talk on Wednesday with House Democrats to encourage them to fight through the resistance they’re likely to face from their peers and their constituents at home.
“I don’t want to hear about ‘well we can’t take it on because it’s too politically dangerous,’” Biden said, according to Reuters. “There’s an overwhelming consensus about the need to act.”
In his attempt to allay their fears about the political toxicity that accompanies those who vote for gun control, Biden acknowledge that several members of Congress got bounced out after they supported the 1994 AWB, but said things are different now.
“I’m here to tell you the world has changed since 1994,” Biden said.
But have things changed since 1994?
Well, according to National Rifle Association President David Keene the danger of losing one’s congressional seat over gun control is as clear and as present as it’s ever been.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Keene implied that House lawmakers are going to play it coy and watch while those in the Senate shoot themselves in the foot.
“The Senate’s where the action’s going to be,” Keene said. “The House is sort of sitting back, and you can almost hear the House Republican leadership saying under their breath, you know, go ahead. We’ve got a few members that wouldn’t mind sitting in the Senate. If you do this, maybe they will. So the House leadership is much more cautious.”
Keene told the AP that he’s confident Congress will not approve a ban on assault weapons or a ban on high-capacity magazines, a position he’s iterated over the past few weeks.
As for UBCs, Keene said it is a political “sweet spot” in theory, but in practice it won’t work because the current system is woefully underfunded and background checks on private sales would be a logistical nightmare.
“I tell you what these things are, these are all feel-good proposals, because at the end of the day, what do they do to prevent” a mass shooter? Keene asked in the AP interview.
However, Keene did say that the nation’s gun lobby does support improving the mental health care system and ensuring mental health records are added into the background check database.
“What we have argued is that if someone has been adjudicated in one way or another to have been, to be potentially violent and mentally ill, they should be in the system,” Keene said.
He was cautious to add, “We’re not talking about anybody who visits a psychiatrist.”
In the coming weeks, as the House holds its own committee hearings on gun control, gun owners will get a better sense of what bills are gaining traction and what bills are slipping through the cracks.
But for now we can probably use Rep. Mike Thompson’s comments to CNN as a barometer of the House’s sentiment on gun control.
“I’m not interested in giving up my guns and I’m not asking anyone else to give up their guns,” said the Vietnam veteran and Democratic lawmaker from California.
UPDATE: Here are the bullet points from the House Dems’ press release:
- Reinstate and strengthen a prospective federal ban on assault weapons: These weapons are designed to fire a large number of rounds in a short period of time. They constitute a lethal threat to law enforcement and other first responders.
- Reinstate a prospective federal ban on assault magazines: These magazines hold more than ten rounds and allow a shooter to inflict mass damage in a short period of time without reloading. Banning them will save lives.
- Require a background check for every gun sale, while respecting reasonable exceptions for cases such as gifts between family members and temporary loans for sporting purposes: It is estimated that four out of ten gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm because federal law only requires these checks when someone buys a gun from a federally licensed dealer. That would be like allowing four out of ten people to choose if they’d go through airport security. This loophole allows felons, domestic abusers, and those prohibited because of mental illness to easily bypass the criminal background check system and buy firearms at gun shows, through private sellers, over the internet or out of the trunks of cars.
- Strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database: Immediate action is needed to ensure the information in the NICS database is up to date. Many federal and state agencies remain deficient in transferring important records to the database. Without the information, the background checks aren’t complete. This needs to change.
- Prosecute those prohibited buyers who attempt to purchase firearms and others who violate federal firearm laws: Federal law bars nine categories of people—including felons and those prohibited because of mental illness —from buying guns. But when prohibited persons attempt to buy guns, they are hardly ever prosecuted. More can and must be done to make these investigations and prosecutions a priority.
- Pass legislation aimed specifically at cracking down on illegal gun trafficking and straw-purchasing: Straw-purchasing is when a prohibited buyer has someone with no criminal history walk into a gun store, pass a background check and purchase a gun with the purpose of giving it to the prohibited buyer. This puts guns in the hands of people who are prohibited from having them. Congress should pass a law that will put an end to this practice.
- Restore funding for public safety and law enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence: Congress should fund law enforcement’s efforts to reduce gun violence, while supporting federal research into causes of gun violence. Put simply, there is no reason the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the National Institute of Health (NIH) should be inhibited from researching the causes of gun violence. And there is no reason for the restrictions federal law places on our law enforcement officers’ ability to track and combat the spread of illegal guns.
- Support initiatives that prevent problems before they start: Local communities should have assistance in applying evidence-based prevention and early intervention strategies that are designed to prevent the problems that lead to gun violence before those problems start.
- Close the holes in our mental-health system and make sure that care is available for those who need it: Congress must improve prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental illness while working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. Access to mental health services should be improved, the shortage of mental health professionals should be addressed, and funding should be made available for those programs that have proven to be effective.
- Help our communities get unwanted and illegal guns out of the hands of those who don’t want them or shouldn’t have them: Congress should help support and develop local programs that get unwanted guns off our streets. And Congress should work with states to develop programs that get guns out of the hands of those convicted of certain crimes or those prohibited because of mental illness.
- Support responsible gun ownership: Congress should support safety training, research aimed at developing new gun safety technologies and the safe storage of firearms.
- Take steps to enhance school safety. Congress must help all schools implement evidence-based strategies that support safe learning environments tailored to the unique needs of students and local communities. And Congress must work with all schools to develop emergency response plans.
- Address our culture’s glorification of violence seen and heard though our movie screens, television shows, music and video games: Congress should fund scientific research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence, while ensuring that parents have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about what their families watch, listen to, and play.