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Democrats Urge New Gun Laws Amid Spate of Shootings
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Democrats Urge New Gun Laws Amid Spate of Shootings

Plus: Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy begin new debt ceiling talks.

Robert Jackson and his mother Cheryl Jackson hug as they visit a memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets mall Monday. Eight people were killed and seven wounded in the attack in which the gunman was killed by police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Democratic lawmakers are renewing calls for an assault weapons ban and other gun control proposals in the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly mass shooting in Allen, Texas. But as we wrote in March after a horrific mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville, such calls are all but guaranteed to go nowhere.

Republican lawmakers largely aren’t interested in debating more gun restrictions.

“Congress passed more gun control,” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise—who himself was seriously wounded in a 2017 mass shooting—in reference to a gun violence prevention bill Congress passed last year. “I opposed it because I knew it wouldn’t solve the problem. It just makes it harder for law-abiding citizens to get guns to defend themselves.”

That bill passed Congress a few months after 19 children and two teachers were killed during a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It expanded the number of Americans prohibited from obtaining firearms, including those with juvenile criminal records and people convicted of misdemeanor crimes against dating partners. It also directed funding toward mental health programs and established a stricter background check process for people younger than 21 who attempt to purchase weapons.

The bill was the most significant gun policy legislation in decades—but Democrats say it didn’t go far enough.

President Joe Biden said this weekend that if Congress were to send him a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, he would sign it “immediately.”

“Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar,” Biden said of the shooting.

But it’s not just Republicans who might stand in the way of such a ban: Some members of Biden’s own party, such as Sen. Jon Tester, oppose an assault weapons ban—making it particularly unlikely in this divided Congress.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the cosponsors of last year’s bipartisan gun policy bill, signaled on Monday that he will double down on efforts to expand background checks for gun sales. CNN reported Monday that the Texas shooter obtained his weapons legally from private sellers, who in Texas are not required to perform background checks. It’s not clear this shooter would have failed a background check if it had been required for his purchases, although there were some concerning factors: According to the Military Times, the shooter served in the Army for three months in 2008 but was dismissed before completing infantry training due to mental health issues.

Murphy said earlier this year he hopes to bring legislation to the Senate floor to put lawmakers on the record, even if it doesn’t have a chance of becoming law. It’s not just mass shootings he wants to address.

“There is a toxic mixture in this country today of hate, of anger, and a population that is increasingly armed to the teeth with deadly weapons. Many of them with no training, many of them with criminal records,” Murphy said in a speech last month, after several teenagers around the country were shot in separate incidents.

“This mixture is leading to our neighborhoods becoming killing fields,” he added. “This is a dystopia, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a dystopia that we’ve chosen for ourselves.”

Biden and McCarthy Meet on the Debt Ceiling

President Joe Biden will meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this afternoon to discuss the debt ceiling for the first time since February. But it’s not clear how much progress, if any, they’ll make on reaching an agreement to raise the borrowing limit before the U.S. can no longer pay its bills. 

Lawmakers may have just three weeks to do so.

The three other top congressional leaders—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries—are also set to attend the meeting.

The two parties are entrenched behind their negotiating positions: Republicans want to tie an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit to government spending cuts and other GOP priorities, like expanded domestic oil and gas drilling. Biden has rejected that prospect, insisting for months that Congress raise the limit without any conditions. But he’s indicated he’s willing to talk with Republicans about spending in separate negotiations to keep the government funded. 

Senate Republicans have made clear they won’t support a clean debt ceiling bill like the one Biden wants. They affirmed their support for McCarthy’s stance over the weekend, with 43 of them signing a letter backing his demands.

One way to square the circle: A short-term debt ceiling suspension. Congress has taken such action in recent years to buy time for similar talks. If lawmakers agree to raise the debt limit until the end of September, it would bring the talks into alignment with the government spending timeline.

On the Floor

House Republicans are set to consider their package of immigration bills this week. A list of other bills the House may vote on this week is available here.

The Senate continues to consider executive nominations.

Key Hearings 

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on the war in Sudan and America’s policy response. Information and livestream here.
  • Officials from the departments of Defense and State will testify about U.S. arms exports on Wednesday morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Information and livestream here.
  • Pharmaceutical executives will appear before the Senate health policy panel Wednesday afternoon for a hearing on insulin prices. Information and livestream here.
  • Members of the House Homeland Security Committee will examine security vulnerabilities facing America’s ports during a hearing Wednesday afternoon. Information and livestream here.
  • A House Financial Services subcommittee will meet Thursday morning for an oversight hearing about the collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Information and livestream here.
  • The House Budget Committee is scheduled to hold a Thursday morning hearing on “the woke, wasteful, and bloated bureaucracy”—a preview of this year’s upcoming government spending showdown between the two parties. Information and livestream here.
  • A House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee will hear from Susan Mayne, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, on Thursday afternoon during a hearing about the baby formula shortage. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.