Which Gun-Control Measures Will Trump, Congress Ultimately Take Up?

Download Audio
The hashtag "#DoSomething" is displayed as trauma surgeon and gun control activist Dr. Joe Sakran takes the podium during a news conference calling for Senate action on H.R. 8 - Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
The hashtag "#DoSomething" is displayed as trauma surgeon and gun control activist Dr. Joe Sakran takes the podium during a news conference calling for Senate action on H.R. 8 - Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

With Nancy Cordes

Congress readies to take up a slew of new gun-violence measures in September. We look at what’s on the table and what gun laws states are passing on their own.


German Lopez, senior correspondent for Vox covering gun policy. (@germanrlopez)

Cassandra Crifasi, professor of health policy and deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. (@DrCrifasi)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democratic senator for Connecticut. He previously served five terms as Connecticut’s Attorney General. (@SenBlumenthal)

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "Opinion: There’s no magic bullet to prevent gun violence. But we can start with more oversight." — "It’s naive to think that any single policy or program can prevent every form of gun violence, ranging from intimate partner violence to gang drive-by homicides, suicides and mall-rampage atrocities. Yet each form of such violence involves one common mechanism: a gun.

"We can reduce these risks through a suite of evidence-based policies that do two things — create more careful licensing for gun purchasers and more effectively regulate teenage and young adult gun buyers.

"Better background checks for all sales provide the foundation for any effective gun policy. These measures are most effective when paired with a system that requires purchasers to obtain a license from law enforcement. Most states with purchaser licensing require applicants to submit fingerprints, as people must do when applying for occupational licensing. Fingerprint-based background checks are less likely to miss people who are legally barred from buying guns.

"Licensing also creates greater accountability, whereby sellers, both licensed and private, can only sell a gun to someone with a valid license. Many studies have found that purchaser licensing reduces homicide and suicide, as well as the number of guns available in an underground market. Sixty-three percent of current gun owners and 81 percent of non-owners support such requirements.

"We should also provide more stringent oversight of young people who wish to buy powerful weapons."

Vox: "Here’s where every 2020 candidate stands on guns" — "In response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, supporters of stricter gun laws have voiced a simple mantra: 'Do something!'

"So, after little federal action on guns for more than two decades, what would the 2020 presidential candidates actually do?

"President Donald Trump, for his part, doesn’t seem interested in much. He has supported a federal red flag law, which would allow police to take away someone’s guns if there’s some proof of a risk of violence (a 'red flag'). But on other measures, from universal background checks to an assault weapons ban, Trump and Republican lawmakers have resisted, instead talking up questionable connections between violence, mental illness, and violent media.

"Democratic candidates, however, have taken more comprehensive stances on guns. For the most part, they’re sticking to common Democratic themes like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban (which is typically paired with a ban on high-capacity magazines), and federally funded research into gun violence. But the campaigns’ plans do include some new ideas here and there — including red flag laws, which campaigns ranging from Cory Booker’s to John Delaney’s back, and requiring a license to buy and own a gun, which Booker in particular brought to the presidential stage but others, like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, also support."

Axios: "White House and Congress say it's 'September or bust' on gun legislation" — "If new gun legislation doesn't pass in September, it won't get done before the 2020 election, sources involved in the talks between the White House and Capitol Hill tell Axios.

"The bottom line: 'It's September or bust,' said a source involved in the discussions. 'We'll either have everything ready for when Congress returns, drop it on the floor, vote on it and move on — or we blow it.'

"The state of play: The president genuinely wants to expand background checks, according to White House and Hill officials. He's directed the Domestic Policy Council and Office of Legislative Affairs to provide him with options for a reform package, these sources said.

"As of now, Trump has expressed support for big, vague ideas — including tougher background checks and restrictions on firearms access to the mentally ill — but on the gun issue, consensus typically evaporates when lawmakers dive into the details.
It's also still unclear whether House Democrats, who have already passed a bill to extend background checks to all gun purchases, would support a slimmer package."

Wall Street Journal: "Trump Advisers Are Wary as President Considers Gun Proposals" — "President Trump’s public push for gun-control measures is causing consternation among conservatives and some of his advisers, who have privately raised concerns about the political and policy fallout of the approach, according to White House officials and people familiar with the discussions.

"At least so far, Mr. Trump doesn’t appear to have been swayed by the concerns, and the president has indicated privately to aides that he wants to be seen taking action in response to back-to-back mass shootings earlier this month. Aides said he remains interested in pushing for legislative action to expand background checks and prevent mentally unstable people from possessing guns.

"While the president is vacationing at his golf course in New Jersey, White House officials began meeting this week with congressional staff in a bid to find areas of compromise.

"'It’s very simple: There’s nobody that is more pro-Second Amendment than Donald Trump, ' Mr. Trump told reporters Tuesday before departing for a speech in Pennsylvania. 'But I don’t want guns in the hands of a lunatic or a maniac, and I think if we do proper background checks, we can prevent that.'

"Amid the increased discussion about gun control, some Trump advisers have urged the president not to throw his support behind any of the gun-control measures being discussed in Congress, including so-called red-flag legislation introduced by top Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), which aims at temporarily blocking dangerous people from accessing firearms. Some advisers have expressed concern that such legislation could violate the Second Amendment and alienate conservative voters."

Washington Post: "As mass shootings rise, experts say high-capacity magazines should be the focus" — "It took a shooter all of 32 seconds to spray 41 rounds outside a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio, this month, an attack that killed nine people and injured 27. A lightning-fast response from nearby officers prevented a far higher toll: When police shot him dead, the killer still had dozens of bullets to go in his double-drum, 100-round magazine.

"The use of such high-capacity magazines was banned in Ohio up until 2015, when a little-noticed change in state law legalized the devices, part of an overall rollback in gun-control measures that has been mirrored in states nationwide.

"With the pace of mass shootings accelerating — and their tolls dramatically increasing — criminologists and reform advocates are more intently focused on limiting access to such accessories as one of the most potent ways to curb the epidemic.

"Restrictions on the capacity of bullet magazines will not stop mass shootings, but they could make the attacks less deadly, giving potential targets precious seconds to escape or fight back while the shooter reloads, experts say."

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on August 20, 2019.



More from On Point

Listen Live