Biden and Democrats are pushing for gun control. This is what will happen next

Republicans hold all the cards in this negotiation, and have a lot more to gain from walking away than from coming to a bigger agreement

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Sunday 05 June 2022 07:32 BST
US President Joe Biden addressed the nation on gun control on Thursday
US President Joe Biden addressed the nation on gun control on Thursday (AFP via Getty Images)
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On Thursday, House Democrats and President Joe Biden made their most aggressive pleas for gun violence yet in the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two adults.

President Biden delivered a rare prime-time address pleading for change, specifically asking for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or, in the event that that couldn’t be achieved, at least raising the age of purchase from 18 to 21. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee held a markup on a litany of gun safety proposals that Biden discussed and passed it on Thursday.

The markup committee was full of sideshow spectacles, such as Republican Representative Greg Steube pulling out various firearms during the hearing (when Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee asked if the gun he was holding was loaded, Steube, who spoke over video, said, “I’m at my house. I can do whatever I want with my guns.”) Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky meanwhile floated repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.

But in between those moments, there were truly gut-wrenching moments — such as when Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia described the pain of losing her son, Jordan Davis, in 2012. Jordan, who was Black, was shot by a white man when he was 17 years old. “Was my child afraid? Did he feel the pain as the bullets ripped through his skin?” McBath said, describing the questions that have haunted her since Jordan’s death. “How long did it take him to die? Was it quick or did he suffer?”

(McBath, who won her seat in the suburbs of Atlanta in the 2018 midterm, has seen her profile rise lately. Last month, during a hearing on abortion rights, she described the numerous lost pregnancies she experienced before conceiving her son. Meanwhile, last week, she beat moderate Democratic Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux in a member-on-member primary after Georgia’s Republican legislature made McBath’s district far redder. Watch her speech on guns here and on abortion here.)

After the dust settled, the legislation passed and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it will receive a floor vote next week. But everyone already knows how this will play out – almost every Democrat will vote for it, every Republican will vote against it and then it will die in the Senate, either by filibuster or by simply not receiving a vote.

A bipartisan coterie of Senators led by Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina as well as Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema are in the midst of negotiations. But as Axios reported on Tuesday, any potential legislation is likely to be more limited in scope than what House Democrats passed out of committee on Thursday.

Since Democrats hope to pass even a smitheree of a solution, they might be forced to eat a morsel instead of a whole meal of gun violence legislation. That essentially gives Republicans far more leverage, even though the Senate is evenly divided.

Just sitting at the negotiating table poses major risks for GOP Senators, while far more political benefits exist for them if they walk away. With that in mind, they can either force Democrats to take whatever proposals they offer or threaten to tank the deal.

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