Gun Debate May Yield Modest Background Check Law

It’s unlikely that Congress will pass any significant gun control legislation. What seems most probable is passage of a bill aimed at improving the background check system.

The gun control scene in Washington, D.C. as of Wednesday: President Trump has thrown out a hodgepodge of ideas but refused to put his full weight behind any of them. Senate Republicans, grappling for something that responds to public clamor but doesn’t alienate their conservative base, are focusing on a small fix. House Republicans will wait to see what the Senate does — though history has shown that can be a very long wait. Democrats push for a broad debate that Republicans want nothing to do with, the New York Times reports. Despite immense public pressure from students who escaped the shooting, the outlook for any consequential action remains dim as the president and lawmakers diverge on how to respond. The most widely backed approach would provide new incentives for public agencies to submit information that could disqualify prospective gun buyers to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System.

Even though they support it, leading Democrats consider that proposal, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, to be woefully insufficient given the scope of the mass shootings. “The Cornyn bill is kind of a fig leaf,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, one of the Democrats up for re-election in a state that President Trump carried in 2016. To Democrats, the fact that the National Rifle Association is not opposed to the proposal is evidence that it falls short. They are demanding a more robust debate over a series of gun initiatives, notably what they call a “universal” background check system that would cover all gun transactions, a plan opposed by the gun lobby.