New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans, under pressure to respond to this weekend’s massacres, appear to be coalescing around legislation to help law enforcement to take guns from those who pose an imminent danger — a measure that, if signed into law, would be the most significant gun safety legislation enacted in 20 years.
With President Donald Trump endorsing the idea, a number of Republicans — including Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican — are embracing the concept.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already proposed legislation that would offer federal grants to states to help them enact red flag laws, also known as “extreme risk protection orders.” And the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has asked three committee chairmen to “reflect on the subjects the president raised” and hold bipartisan talks of “potential solutions.”
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already have red flag laws. But the push for them on Capitol Hill stops short of the legislation mandating universal background checks that Democrats and gun control advocates — as well as a handful of Republicans — have been clamoring for. Already, Democrats are warning Republicans will use Graham’s proposal to skirt the larger issue.
“Right now I can sense from my conversations with Republican colleagues that they are really grappling and struggling — scrambling may be too strong a word — but they are really searching for some steps that are meaningful,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who is partnering with Graham on the red flag bill, said Tuesday. “And there’s nothing more strongly supported by the American people than background checks.”
Blumenthal and other Democrats are demanding that McConnell bring the Senate back from its August recess to pass two House bills to expand background checks to internet and gun show purchases, and to allow the FBI more time to investigate a would-be gun buyer flagged by the current background check system.
Even gun control advocates conceded getting the House bill through the Senate would be a heavy lift. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., said Monday he was reviving his background checks bill, which fell to a filibuster in 2013, and that he intended to press McConnell to bring it up if Republicans were convinced they had the votes.