Officials weigh in on Senate talks to curb gun violence, but doubt lingers

·6 min read

Officials on Sunday weighed in on how the U.S. can best address mass shootings plaguing the country with some expressing optimism that a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers could come to some consensus to help curb gun violence.

But others offered skepticism on whether the latest tragedy, which killed 19 elementary school children, would result in any Republicans budging on the issue.

Only one GOP lawmaker on Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who is leaving Congress after this term, said he would be open to an assault weapons ban and support raising the minimum age in which a person can own a firearm to 21.

“I have opposed a ban fairly recently, I think I’m open to a ban now,” Kinzinger told co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.

The GOP lawmaker told ABC’s “This Week,” he was a “strong defender of the Second Amendment” but that he was “getting sick of seeing the mass shootings.”

A bipartisan group of senators met last week at the Capitol to begin laying out a path for negotiations to curb gun violence in response to the Texas shooting with a focus on background checks and red flag laws

Among them is Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) an outspoken gun reform advocate since the Sandy Hook shooting in his state killed 20 school age children a decade ago.

He pointed to a law in Florida signed by a Republican governor and passed by a GOP-led legislature that banned bump stocks and raised the age limit for gun purchases from 18 to 21 years old after the Parkland school shooting.

“The Florida law is a good law and it’s a signal of what’s possible, right?” Murphy told ABC’s “This Week” host Jonathan Karl. “We’ve got a short timeframe … but I think we can do it.”

The 18-year-old gunman in Texas purchased two semiautomatic rifles just days before he crashed his truck in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and opened fire with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, killing 19 children and two teachers.

The deadly attack came just 10 days after an alleged white supremacist shot and killed 10 people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a majority-black neighborhood that he had scoped out beforehand. The recent attacks renewed calls for tighter gun control measures.

Among the most frequent calls include universal background checks and creating a national red flag law mandate. Currently, background checks do not apply to sales at gun shows or through other legal but more underground vendors. Red flag laws apply to 19 states in the U.S., but there is no such mechanism on the federal level.

Tony Montalto, the president of gun control activist group Stand With Parkland, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd that America needs to “have a look at ourselves” in the wake of the Texas tragedy.

“And what we really need is to stop the pandering to the folks on the far right and the folks on the far left,” Montalto said. “Where is Congress acting on this?”

Stand With Parkland formed after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 students and staff. Montalto said owners of semiautomatic rifles and other high-powered rifles should “imagine what they do to the bodies of children in schools.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told “Fox News Sunday” that he was “hopeful” Democrats and Republicans could unite after the Texas tragedy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave the greenlight to talks on legislation to curb gun violence that included him asking Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of his advisers, to negotiate with Democrats.

While McConnell said he is hopeful the talks would result in a bipartisan agreement, he also warned that negotiations shouldn’t veer off proposals that were not “directly related” to the incidents in New York and Texas.

Other GOP lawmakers continue to stood firm in opposition to any bill that would put any limits on people obtaining or owning firearms.

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R) on Sunday told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would not support a red flag bill, saying there is “a lot of problems” with the laws, which are designed to take firearms away from a person if a troubled incident or history arises and is flagged to a court.

“What you’re essentially trying to do with a red flag law is enforce the law before the law has been broken, and it’s a really difficult thing to do,” he said. “It’s difficult to assess whether somebody is a threat.”

This weekend, the National Rifle Association (NRA) hosted a conference in Houston, about 300 miles from Uvalde, just days after the shooting at Robb Elementary.

The NRA deflected calls to cancel the conference as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former President Trump joined a host of other Republicans who blamed other factors that lead to gun violence and mass shootings, such as mental health, social media and violent video games.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), meanwhile, assigned blame on Sunday to the decline of “moral values” in America, pinning rising violence and mass shootings on fewer families with two parents in the household.

“If we teach proper moral values and if we teach respect for human life,” Brooks told “Fox News Sunday” guest host Sandra Smith, “then that is the way to fix the problem.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, during a roundtable discussion with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, said lawmakers standing in the way of gun law reform had a warped sense of reality.

“Part of it starts with us owning who we are as Americans,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I think sometimes we need to find mirrors that work in our country, because too many people look in the mirror and think they see someone who values life. But if you say you value life and you let these babies die and do nothing and you can — your mirror’s broken.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was less positive about the potential for Senate lawmakers to come to an agreement on a bill related to curbing gun violence because the U.S. was often “out of step” on instituting such reforms.

“Everything we’re talking about today does not happen in other countries. Just here, because we tolerate it,” Booker told NBC’s “Meet The Press” moderator Chuck Todd. “And that’s the question: How much endurance do we have for horror and wretchedness and pain and death when we have the ability to change it?”

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