Schumer Backs Off Background-Check Vote, Says Americans Should Focus on Gun Control in Midterms

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer does not appear poised to advance legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchasers, saying instead that Americans can cast their votes in November with gun control as a priority.

Schumer said Wednesday that there are some people who want to see the Senate “quickly vote on sensible gun safety legislation” so that the American people can know which side each senator is on in the wake of a shooting at an elementary school in Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead.

“I’m sympathetic to that,” Schumer said. “And I believe that accountability votes are important. But sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know. They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this — crystal clear.”

“Republicans don’t pretend that they support sensible gun safety legislation,” he added. “They don’t pretend to be moved by the fact that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of party, support something as common sense as background checks…”

He continued: “They don’t pretend that they want to keep guns out of the hands of those who might use weapons to shoot concert goers or movie watchers or worshipers or shoppers or children. They don’t pretend at all.”

“Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns, with this issue … at the top of the voters lists,” he concluded.

“In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now,” he said, adding that it is “unlikely” and he has been “burnt in the past.”

His comments come after the New York Times reported that Schumer had moved to clear the way for votes on two bills that would expand criminal background checks to potential gun buyers on the internet and at gun shows and to increase the waiting period for gun buyers flagged by the instant background check system to give the FBI additional time to investigate. Both measures were passed by the House in 2019 but later stalled in the Senate after failing to garner Republican support.

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) who has become an advocate for gun safety and background check legislation since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., nearly a decade ago, said he believes there are ten GOP votes to reach a deal that could help Democrats break the 60-vote filibuster to move legislation through the Senate.

“What are we doing?” Murphy said in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is that as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?”

Yet Senator Mike Rounds (R., S.D.) argued, “it’s one thing to say that, regardless of the facts, you should just do something. The question is whether something you would do would actually make a difference.”

In the case of the Uvalde shooting and a recent mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery shooting that killed 10 people, the shooters were both able to legally obtain firearms.

The Uvalde shooter, Salvador Ramos, legally purchased two rifles in the days following his 18th birthday, the Houston Chronicle reported. One day after his 18th birthday, he purchased one of the rifles from a federally licensed gun store, which would have required a background check. according to the report. He purchased 375 rounds of ammunition one day later and a second rifle on May 20.

The Buffalo shooting suspect, Payton Gendron, passed a background check before legally buying a Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle from a gun store in Endicott, N.Y., which he then illegally modified, according to the New York Times.

“He didn’t stand out — because if he did, I would’ve never sold him the gun,” the gun store owner told the paper of Gendron.

Meanwhile, an account believed to have belonged to Ramos posted cryptically on Instagram in the days leading up to the shooting, including one post that featured photos of Ramos and a first-person perspective of a person of a person holding a firearm magazine in their lap, the New York Post reported.

The account, which has since been taken down, shared a picture of two rifles laying side-by-side to its stories and tagged another user in the photo. The New York Post reported that the tagged user was a stranger who received a message from Ramos that he “got a lil secret.”

The account messaged the woman who had never met Ramos on May 12 saying, “You gonna repost my gun pics.” On Tuesday morning before the shooting he messaged her, “I’m about to,” but did not elaborate what he meant, saying only that he would tell the woman what he meant before 11.

Ramos lived with his mother, who struggled with addiction, up until a few months before the shooting, when he moved in with his grandmother, a neighbor told the Washington Post. He shot his grandmother before heading to the school to carry out his massacre.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article, which relied on New York Times reporting, suggested that Schumer was preparing to force a symbolic vote on background check legislation. 

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