Following the tragedy that unfolded in Uvalde, Texas, last week, the reaction was what Americans have come to expect in the wake of any shooting that is used to scapegoat law-abiding firearm owners rather than place blame on authorities who all-too-often fail to enforce current law or respond appropriately — and it looks like GOP members of the Senate might be indulging reactionary Democrats in their long-running quest to undermine the Second Amendment.
There is still much left to learn about what happened in the days leading up to and during the shooting at Robb Elementary School that stole 21 lives from the small city. Contradictory statements from school district, local, and state authorities have further muddied the waters as Americans look for answers that still haven't materialized. More, and accurate, information needs to be provided — especially before lawmakers decide what, if anything, can be done to prevent future tragedies.
But the lack of concrete, verified information apparently isn't dissuading federal lawmakers from jumping to reactionary conclusions and demanding specific policies be passed without knowing whether or not they would even have prevented the tragedy in Uvalde.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) leapt to action and farmed retweets and mainstream media puff pieces over his allegedly quick action to pass House bills dealing with firearm purchases…only to scuttle the supposedly critical life-saving votes before the long Memorial Day weekend.
Now, there's a bipartisan group of senators meeting about new firearm laws, proposals that again are being debated and discussed even before the full story of how the Uvalde shooting unfolded and what, if anything, could be done at the federal level to prevent or reduce the chances of such shootings taking place.
While it's nothing new for Democrats to attempt to force more firearm restrictions — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) already passed several pieces of legislation through the House before the tragedy in Uvalde — it's notable that Republican senators are apparently playing nice with Democrats and indulging their emotional response. That response, of course, is understandable. No one wants another Uvalde to happen. But an emotional response, one that is being guided by Democrats, is not going to do anything but erode the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.
So far, the group — led on the Democrats' side by Senator Chris Murphy (DE) while Senator John Cornyn (TX) is representing Republicans — hasn't reached any sort of concrete consensus on what policies could be moved forward. The group involved in the talks or being consulted also includes Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lindsey Graham (D-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
The Republicans involved in these talks or negotiations — whatever they call them — need to toughen up, and fast. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has said that Republicans are "just having a discussion about what we might be able to agree on" when it comes to federal legislation dealing with Second Amendment rights. That could be smart messaging to give the impression of action in order to divert criticism from anti-gun leftists. But it could also be cover for what are actually serious conversations about a bipartisan compromise on new federal firearm restrictions.
But here's the deal: whether they realize it or not, Republicans have the power in these talks. In the evenly divided U.S. Senate, Democrats need at least 60 votes in order to overcome a GOP filibuster and move toward a final vote that could be a 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote to affirm the legislation. November's midterms are looming, and as it stands now, Democrats are going to be shellacked. They need a win more than Republicans, who are coasting to increasingly better odds on Biden's sinking approval and congressional Democrats' inability to get much of anything passed.
That means Republicans shouldn't budge one inch when it comes to the Second Amendment freedoms of the American people. It wasn't millions of law-abiding firearm owners or their constitutional rights that are to blame for the tragedy in Uvalde. As in most horrific shootings, there was a significant failure of government — not the Second Amendment — on multiple levels that led to the horror that unfolded.
The Uvalde shooter listed his grandfather's address on his background check form. His grandfather has a criminal background and admitted as much, which means he's a prohibited person, and therefore, his grandson's background check should have failed. But it didn't. The background check policies on the books didn't prevent him from being cleared to buy a firearm, so what would another law on background checks do to prevent another tragedy from being facilitated by the failure of the government?
The answer to tragedies like this, where the government fails to do the job it is tasked with, is not more government — which is often the knee-jerk reaction — but government that actually does its damn job.
Of course, the urgency with which Democrats are pursuing more "gun control" (in scare quotes because a look at jurisdictions with the strictest such laws shows guns are not controlled) never comes as a result of the failed leadership of Mayors Lori Lightfoot, Eric Adams, or Jim Kenney.
But now, this bipartisan group of senators seems to be pursuing more government, a supposed "fix" that has yet to prove its usefulness or efficacy in keeping firearms out of the hands of people who wish to use them to do harm to others.
Scuttlebutt from Capitol Hill tells us that potential "solutions" include a federal red flag law — administered by the FBI, ATF, or who knows which swampy agency, none of which have proved capable of enforcing firearms laws already in effect — different minimum age requirements for purchasing certain firearms, or adjustments or enhancements to background checks. There's no basis for the assumption that more federal government involvement would do anything to prevent tragedies like last week's in Texas or the previous week's in Buffalo. They also, for what it's worth, would do nothing to stop people who obtain firearms illegally and therefore already skirt existing laws.
To Republicans involved in the process, do better, know your negotiating position, and be transparent. There's no reason for GOP members to be fulfilling the trope of Washington elites negotiating in smoke-filled back rooms. There's also no reason to compromise on their commitments to their constituents or oath of office to uphold the Constitution — they have the power in these talks. And they ought not use these negotiations to try and build bipartisan goodwill with Democratic members who will never compromise or work with Republicans if they take the majority after the midterms.
One thing is certain: if Republicans negotiate away the Second Amendment rights of millions of law-abiding Americans through this process, they don't deserve to win Americans' support in November.