The massacre of six people, including three 9-year-olds, at a Nashville elementary school Monday has rekindled the intractable political debate on gun control — prompting some Democrats to push for gun reform in the Republican-controlled House.
President Biden — who called for Congress to enact an assault weapons ban in the wake of Monday’s shooting — admitted Tuesday that he has exhausted all executive options while pleading with Congress.
“I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do on my own anything about guns. The Congress has to act,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House on a trip to North Carolina.
“The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, it’s a crazy idea. They’re against that. And so I think the Congress could be passing an assault weapons ban,” he said.
Although it’s unlikely that the GOP-controlled House will take up any reform measures, Democratic leaders are mulling a political maneuver known as a discharge petition that allows a simple majority to bring a bill to the floor.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a leading advocate for gun control, raised the possibility of using the legislative gambit during a Tuesday morning meeting of the Democratic caucus.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic House leader, pledged to “press forward” at the closed-door confab.
“Stand up, show up, speak up on this issue so we can end the scourge of gun violence in America,” he said, Politico reported.
He pointed out that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that passed last year after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was the “floor” for future proposals, not the ceiling, Politico reported.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) also encouraged his colleagues to go beyond the typical responses voiced after a mass shooting.
“We believe that there’s more legislation that can be done,” he said. “We’ve got to do more than offer thoughts and prayers, and there should be action.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Republicans, based on comments made since the shooting, don’t appear ready to budge on the matter.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he doesn’t think Congress should limit assault weapons.
“The Second Amendment is the Second Amendment. I believe in the Second Amendment, and we shouldn’t penalize law-abiding American citizens,” the Ohio Republican told CNN.
Any gun measures would have to make their way through Jordan’s panel.
The shooter at the Covenant School carried three weapons – two AR-15-style assault rifles and a handgun.
Aubrey Hale, 28, a former student at the Christian school, mowed down the six people before being fatally shot by police.
Hale killed Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all age 9, as well as custodian Mike Hill and substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, both 61, and school head Katherine Koonce, 60.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) sidestepped questions from reporters on Tuesday about an assault weapons ban.
“The tragedy that happened in my state was the result of a depraved person and somebody very, very sick. And the result has been absolutely devastating for the people in my community. Right now with the victims, the family and the people in my community — we are all mourning right now,” Hagerty told CNN.
“I’m certain politics will wave into everything. But right now I’m not focused on the politics of the situation. I’m focused on the victims,” he continued.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who played a key role in negotiating last year’s bipartisan gun bill, pooh-poohed the calls for additional gun measures.
“I would say we’ve gone about as far as we can go — unless somebody identifies some area that we didn’t address,” he told reporters Monday evening.
Rep. Tim Burchett, a Republican from Tennessee, called the killing of six in Nashville a “horrible situation” but said Congress is unable to “fix” mass shootings.
“We’re not going to fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals,” Burchett told reporters Monday on the steps of the US Capitol.
“My daddy, who fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese, and he told me, ‘Buddy,’ he said, ‘If somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.’”
With Post wires
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