The sweeping gun reforms that President Obama spoke of in the wake of the horrific Newtown shooting may boil down to a handful of executive orders, and the faltering possibility of increased background checks.
The Senate will debate an increase in background checks on gun sales this week. PHOTO: Reuters
The sweeping gun reforms that President Obama spoke of in the wake of the horrific Newtown shooting may boil down to a handful of executive orders, and the faltering possibility of increased background checks. The word that often goes with background checks is "universal," but universal background checks may not make it to a vote in the Senate, would have a limited chance of passing, and that does not bode well for the Republican controlled House.
That's more than a little messed up, because, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll,
90% of Americans support universal background check
. Even if we say that this poll is off by 10 points (which would be four times Post/ABC's usual margin of error), 80% agreement is rare and overwhelming.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will conference with various senators to decide how to proceed on background checks. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has the "gold standard" bill, which would institute universal background checks on all gun sales, but despite the aforementioned overwhelming support, that one does not have the 60% support needed to make it through the Senate.
What's more likely is that Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will present his bill to the senate floor, which calls for background checks on all commercial sales, including at gun shows, but would exempt private sales. Manchin is probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and his bill would likely get the vote of all 55 Democrats, with the chance to pull a few Republicans. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) has been willing to listen, and his support could provide cover for others, like Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Reid could also get any bill to the floor using revised rules that dodge the first potential filibuster by allowing each side to offer two amendments. Once debate had started, its not clear if it would stop, however. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a dozen other Senators including nutcase Ted Cruz (R-Tex) and Paul's potential 2016 rival Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have promised to filibuster any gun legislation.
Two points that I won't bother to fully extrapolate in this post: 1) Reid's options here show just how toothless filibuster reform was, and 2) Rubio joining a filibuster here could hurt his presidential ambitions. It could be a wash in the Republican primary, but hurt him badly in the general election, and it could even hurt him in the primary.
The larger moral here is that real gun reform will happen at the state level. Some kind of deal on background checks would be a great step, but the federal government will take baby steps, while states like New York, Connecticut and Colorado will be the ones making the big reforms.