Senate moves to vote on gun-control reform as Manchin vows to oppose critical bill in wake of mass shootings

Chuck Schumer urges colleagues to “confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 24 March 2021 17:19
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Related: Stephen Colbert calls for gun control action after Atlanta and Boulder shootings

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Democratic congressional leaders have vowed to move forward with voting on gun-control reform following a recent spate of mass shootings nationwide – despite lacking critical support from a key senator.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he plans to bring to a new bill to the Senate floor recently passed by the House, which would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers, urging his colleagues to “confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades.

His comments come after President Joe Biden demanded lawmakers act as the nation reels from its second mass shooting in a week, but Democratic senators remain divided on the issue, with Senator Joe Manchin (D–WV) expressing his opposition to the House measure once again on Wednesday. 

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, the centrist Democrat – who has frequently clashed with the Biden administration since the president was inaugurated in January – said he would vote against the House bill after reports indicated he expressed his opposition to several proposals considered by a senate committee.

Asked if he supported the new gun control bill, Mr Manchin replied: “What the House passed? Not at all.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week on proposals for gun control, though it remained unclear whether any of the bills up for consideration – most of them involving more restrictive background checks – would have made a difference in the Colorado case. 

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A 21-year-old man charged with killing eight people in the Atlanta area last week had purchased a handgun hours before the murders, prompting advocates to push for longer waiting periods for purchases.

In brief remarks responding to the shooting, Mr Biden urged Congress to move quickly to close the loopholes in the background check system and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – an effort that would be even more difficult to achieve politically. 

According to a police affidavit, the Colorado shooter had purchased an assault rifle six days earlier.

“It should not be a partisan issue,” Mr Biden said. “This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives.”

Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday in an interview with CBS News that Mr Biden would not exclude taking executive action on gun control measures, but “if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation”.

Senate Democrats do not currently have deep enough support among Republicans to pass new gun control legislation in the 50-50 Senate, as they would need 60 votes to do so. While expanding background checks is generally popular with the American public, even with some conservatives, Congress has been unable to find a successful compromise on guns in decades, making it one of the most intractable issues in American politics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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