The comprehensive gun package introduced in the Senate Thursday faces an uncertain future, with many Republicans and moderate Democrats quibbling over the universal background check requirement in the bill, but Congress has certainly already acted in some ways on guns, even passing a government spending bill that includes four gun provisions which actually loosen gun regulations.
The CR, Washington speak for continuing resolution, approved Thursday that will keep the government funded for the next six months included four gun measures that have long been in the CR’s base bill but were made permanent by the CR passed this week.
One measure prevents the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from requiring firearms dealers to maintain inventories to ensure weapons haven’t been stolen, while another provision prevents the ATF from denying licenses to firearms dealers who report no business activity.
A third provision prevents the government from changing the definition of antique guns, and a fourth measure requires the ATF to include disclaimer language in its research data saying the information can’t be used to make conclusions about gun crimes.
These measures, tucked away in the CR, seem to loosen gun regulations as the Senate is introducing legislation it’s spent months cultivating.
Next month the Senate will consider a comprehensive gun package, which includes universal background checks and a gun trafficking measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced the gun legislation Thursday evening, and it will face a vote when the Senate returns from recess in April.
“I hope negotiations will continue over the upcoming break to reach a bipartisan compromise on background checks, and I am hopeful that they will succeed,” Reid said in a statement. “If a compromise is reached, I am open to including it in the base bill. But I want to be clear: in order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks.”
But the comprehensive gun package will face an uphill battle due to the universal background check portion of the bill, originally introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., which Republicans worry will lead to a national registry of guns.
And stripped from the comprehensive bill is the controversial assault weapons ban, which will be voted on as an amendment to the bill instead of as part of the full package. The assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., drew heated debate between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
“Once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines, and mental health provisions receive votes, along with other amendments. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for all of these provisions to receive votes, and I will ensure that they do,” Reid said in the statement.
Vice President Joe Biden, who has led the administration’s gun reform initiatives, called on Congress to show “courage” Thursday as they deliberate over the gun proposals next month and made the case for banning high capacity magazines, a proposal that’s not included in the comprehensive gun package.
“For all those who say we shouldn’t or couldn’t ban high-capacity magazines, I just ask them one question: Think about Newtown. Think about Newtown. Think about how many of these children may, or teachers may be alive today had [Adam Lanza] had to reload three times as many times as he did,” Biden said in a news conference at New York City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and families of Newtown victims Thursday.
“Even though restrictions on military-style weapons will not be part of the bill that goes to the floor of the U.S. Senate, it will get a vote … by the full Senate as an amendment to the bill. And everyone’s going to have to stand up and say yea or nay, and then the rest of us have to decide just how we feel about people and their stance,” Bloomberg said. “We will do everything to win support for it, and I know the White House will be doing everything that they can too.”