“I’m not interested in bringing to the Senate floor a bill that can’t even get 50. And the fastest way to get 50 is to keep all the Democrats together,” Murphy said.
Rather than draft House-approved bills instituting universal background checks and closing other loopholes, Democrats are leaning toward scheduling a vote next month on legislation that will increase the number of online and gun show transactions that fall under federal background checks. Unlike the gun laws passed by the House, Senate Democrats are betting that such legislation could unite them and even entice Republicans to join them.
If the legislation fails as expected, a show of unity among Democrats would send an “important message to the American people” about where senators stand on gun control, said D-Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono.
After initial optimism for a compromise, the collapse of the latest round of two-party arms control negotiations last week turned Murphy’s attention back to a package that could hold his entire caucus together. He’s aiming for the Democrats’ display of power on bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, a gender pay gap bill that won the support of any majority senator, even when Republicans blocked it.
Murphy is still talking to Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), he said, on “some ideas that involve extending background checks without becoming completely universal.” said he is also working on a way to run broader background checks for “commercial sales that would appeal to a cross-section of Republicans.”
Such legislation would be designed to address current loopholes in the federal system that allow some gun sales to take place without a background check. Federal law only requires sales from authorized dealers, importers and manufacturers to undergo background checks, opening a gap that gun control proponents have long sought to close.
Given the unregulated nature of the transactions, few estimates are available on the number of sales completed without background checks. But a 2015 survey of gun owners published in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that 13 percent of gun owners who bought a gun in the past two years did so without a check.
For example, selling online on Craigslist-esque websites and selling at gun shows may not be covered by existing law, so Murphy said he is pushing for legislation that would cover “any stranger-to-stranger sale.”
Even if senators did compromise, a scaled back bill could spark skepticism among gun control groups that have long fought for tighter controls and were eager to change after President Joe Biden won the White House.
“There would likely be varying degrees of support in the gun violence prevention movement for a commercial sale bill as a step-by-step first step to address gun violence in all its forms,” said Christian Heyne, vice president of policy at the gun control advocacy group. . group Brady. “But it must reject all dangerous gifts to a gun lobby that puts profit before people.”
And after years of fierce battles over gun proposals, other Senate Democrats have been skeptical that any proposal on this issue could gain meaningful GOP support, even if Murphy can find a bill that wins the liberals and centrists off his caucus.
“We have a pretty good prospect of democratic unity,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “But keeping 60 votes is another matter at the moment.”
The last time the Senate considered a background check bill, in 2013, it also tried to expand the system to include online and gun shows. That attempt by Toomey and Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) to make an arms deal failed to break a filibuster, winning just four Republican votes and losing four Democrats.
Murphy, however, is convinced that things can be different this year.
Eight years ago, Murphy said, there was “only one Republican who was willing to talk about expanding background checks — Pat Toomey.” But now “there are multiple potential Republican partners,” he said, and “we’re closer” [to], no further from getting 60 in the Senate.”
Submitting a bill next month that every member of the Democratic caucus carries would be a big step in that direction. Yet crucial Senate Republicans took a less optimistic tone when asked about the Murphy-led negotiations.
“We’re talking gun shows. We’ll see if it leads anywhere,” Graham said. When asked whether a gun show bill could gain support from other Republicans, most of whom are resistant to gun control measures, Graham said the 2013 Toomey-Manchin framework wouldn’t, but that a “hybrid” of force would can win.
Toomey was even more bearish. When asked if another commercial sale proposal could win more Republicans, the retiring Pennsylvanian replied, “Frankly, it’s unclear at this point.”