Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
It looks like moderate gun safety legislation that will reduce the terrible toll of gun deaths in America will soon become law. The announcement Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he’s joining 10 other Senate Republicans to support a bipartisan framework for a bill is a good sign.
Unless there is a last-minute glitch, McConnell’s support will likely persuade even more Republicans to support the gun legislation in the wake of the horrific recent massacres of 10 Black Americans in a Buffalo supermarket, and 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
While the bill is an important step forward, much more needs to be done. However, Senate Republican opposition makes that impossible for now. Although Democrats hold 50 seats in the 100-member Senate, the filibuster rule requires a 60-vote supermajority for bills to come up for a vote.
The legislative framework expected to win the support of all Senate Democrats and at least 11 Republicans, calls for:
- Mandating that people who sell a large number of guns require buyers to undergo background checks.
- Federal grants to encourage states to adopt red-flag laws that would bar people found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing guns.
- New federal penalties for “straw purchasers” — people who buy guns for transfer to others barred from owning firearms.
- Requiring that background checks of gun buyers younger than 21 include a review of juvenile crime records.
- Spending billions of dollars on community mental health centers.
- Increased federal funding for school security.
- Closing what’s known as “the boyfriend loophole” to prevent former dating partners who are under domestic violence restraining orders from buying guns.
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans refused to go along with some of the commonsense gun safety proposals President Biden made June 2 including: banning the sale of the powerful semi-automatic rifles known as assault weapons, or at least banning their sale to anyone younger than 21; limiting the number of bullets in gun magazines; expanding background checks to cover all gun purchases; requiring gun owners to safely store their weapons; and repealing immunity from liability for manufacturers of guns used in shootings.
Senate Republicans are also refusing to pass gun safety legislation that was passed by the House last week with overwhelming Democratic support called the Protecting Our Kids Act and the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act.
Supporters of gun safety are in agreement that something is better than nothing, so we can expect the House to pass and President Biden to sign whatever gun measures make it through the Senate. Both Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have endorsed the bipartisan Senate framework.
We should look at this compromise gun legislation as just the first step in a plan of action designed to reduce the terrible toll of gun violence, which claims an average of 111 lives and wounds another 210 people in the U.S. every day.
Tragically, the Black community is especially hard-hit by gun violence. According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety: “Black Americans … experience 10 times the gun homicides, 18 times the gun assault injuries, and nearly 3 times the fatal shootings by police of white Americans.” And while Blacks make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 59 percent of victims of gun homicides.
The greater suffering experienced by Black people due to gun violence helps explain the difference in how we and other Americans view the issue. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in September 2021 found that 82% of Black Americans said gun violence is a very big issue, while 58% of Hispanics and only 36% of whites said they held that view.
A more recent poll conducted for CBS News by YouGov in May, following the Buffalo mass murders, found a huge partisan divide on whether laws covering gun sales should be made stricter. While 79% of Democrats and 50% of independents favored stricter gun laws, only 27% of Republicans held that view. Since the vast majority of Black voters cast ballots for Democrats (90% voted for Biden in 2020) it’s safe to say most favor stricter gun laws.
If there’s anything Americans of all political persuasions and every race and ethnicity should be able to unite around, it is the reasonable gun safety measures proposed by Biden, as well as those passed by the House. That’s because all types of Americans fall victim to gun violence. The little children murdered in Uvalde weren’t registered with any political party, and the Black people gunned down in Buffalo were murdered because of their race, not their political affiliations.
Despite hyperbolic Republican claims, Democrats don’t want to repeal the Second Amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms—and couldn’t do so even if they tried. Law-abiding gun owners, like my late father, have nothing to fear from the reasonable gun safety measures Democrats support.
Gun safety legislation should be nonpartisan. I regret that Republicans disagree with this view.
Realistically, the only way to get around Republican obstructionism blocking more effective gun safety legislation from being enacted will be to elect more Democrats in November. This is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile
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