Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s vow earlier this week to bring an “assault weapons” ban to the floor for a vote came to fruition on Wednesday… kind of.
No vote took place because Schumer bypassed the normal committee process to bring up the legislation authored by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which required unanimous consent in order for a vote to be cast. As you can imagine, that consent was not given by every member of the Senate, with Senator John Barasso (R-WY) rising to object, but Schumer at least got the headlines he wanted.
Reuters declared “US Senate Republicans block assault-style weapons ban as mass shootings rise“, while The Hill went with the slightly less hyperbolic “Senate Republicans block assault weapons ban, background checks bill“. In both cases, however, Schumer’s narrative that the GOP is standing in the way of public safety was advanced by the media.
Schumer used the same ploy to bring up a “universal” background check bill, with Sen. Chris Murphy arguing that polls show 90 percent of Americans are in favor, and that its somehow a failure of “democracy” not to adopt the measure.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee took to the floor immediately to object.
“I want to note at the outset we’re not asked to vote in this chamber on polling questions. We vote on legislation,” he said.
He said the legislation to expand background checks “has some real problems with it.”
“This is not solely about transactions involving guns at gun stores. This is about the father who wishes to pass down a hunting rifle to his son or the friend who wants to lend a shotgun to his neighbor who is in need of protection at the time,” Lee said before objecting to Murphy’s request.
That wasn’t Lee’s only objection to the background check bill, as the Firearms Policy Coalition pointed out on X.
Sen Mike Lee is now shredding the Universal Background Check by speaking about the actual bill and what it does to violate our rights, rather than emotional blackmail and Fox News polls
He notes that the bill can only be enforced by creating an illegal national firearms registry pic.twitter.com/Sajwksg2eG
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) December 6, 2023
I would have loved to see Lee or another Republican grill Murphy on just how many standalone prosecutions there have been in Connecticut for transferring a firearm without a background check, as opposed to that charge being tacked on to more substantial violations of the law. “Universal” background checks may sound appealing in theory, especially to non-gun owners, but in truth they do absolutely nothing to prevent bad actors from getting ahold of a gun.
Imagine if we had universal background checks on alcohol. We already show ID when we buy a six-pack of beer or a bottle of bourbon from a store, right? So what’s the big deal about requiring private alcohol owners to ensure that anybody they serve in their home or at a neighborhood cookout is old enough to drink?
Now imagine trying to actually enforce that law proactively. How do you police every person-to-person transaction ahead of time or as its happening? You can’t, and the same is true for person-to-person transactions with guns, or any other object for that matter. At best, universal background checks provide prosecutors with a charge after the fact, but even those cases are rarely prosecuted because the defendant is typically facing much more serious charges.
I did find it interesting that Schumer brought Feinstein’s gun ban bill up for a vote and not the newly-introduced “GOSAFE Act”, which would ban the production and sale of all gas-operated semi-automatic centerfire rifles (i.e., the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles in existence). What’s more, Schumer referred to Feinstein’s bill as “the assault weapons ban”, not an “assault weapons ban,” though maybe I’m reading too much into a social media post.
Today, I’m putting the Assault Weapons Ban on the Senate floor to help rid our streets of these dangerous, deadly weapons.
Gun violence in America is a national crisis, and the American people are sick of enduring one mass shooting after another.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 6, 2023
I can’t imagine Schumer objecting to anything within the GOSAFE Act, but I’m still curious as to why he used Feinstein’s bill as a vehicle for his political stunt rather than the new bill that’s been widely embraced by gun control groups. I mean, if you’re going to bypass the normal committee process and bring a gun ban bill to the floor, why not go with the supposedly new and improved version? Was it fealty to the late California senator; an intentional slighting of senators like Angus King, Martin Heinrich, and Mark Kelly for throwing Feinstein’s bill under the bus; or was Schumer just going with the bill that had at least had a hearing as opposed to legislation introduced just a few days ago?
The end result was going to be the same regardless of what legislation Schumer brought forward. A Republican was going to object, unanimous consent would be denied, and no roll call vote that would put pressure on red state Democrats like Jon Tester of Montana would be taken. I doubt that Schumer would have even found fifty votes for his gun ban if it had been brought to the floor in the course of regular business, but now he can accuse Republicans alone of being callous and uncaring pawns of the gun lobby by rejecting the gun ban and background check bills.
I don’t mind an honest debate over these bills. In fact, an honest anything on Capitol Hill would be a refreshing change of pace. But Schumer wasn’t interested in an actual debate. If he had been, Dick Durbin could have held a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on S. 25 at any point this year. The same goes for the background check bill Schumer brought to the floor as well. But that would also have meant a roll call vote for cloture, and Schumer doesn’t want embattled Democrats running for reelection in red states next year to have to cast their own vote on either of these bills, and this was his slimy and swampy way of giving them cover while bashing Republicans at the same time.