Congress to pass stricter gun laws? Hasn’t happened in years


(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned and urgent call for more restrictive gun measures Tuesday after a gunman opened fire at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 children and two teachers.

“For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the gun industry,” Biden said Tuesday.

The president called on Democrats and Republicans to come together and work to pass a bill similar to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban he helped champion more than 27 years ago.

Over the past three decades, federal legislation placing restrictions on gun purchases has been limited. Back in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed a federal law banning certain assault weapons and firearm features.

“Let us roll up our sleeves to roll back this awful tide of violence and reduce crime in our country,” Clinton said at the time.

But just 10 years later, Congress allowed that ban to expire. Specific models of the AR-15 that had been banned under Clinton became available once again.

Since then, efforts to enact similar restrictions at the federal level have failed.

Over the years, Americans’ opinions on gun control have varied widely. In September 1990, 78% of Americans said gun laws should be made more strict, according to a Gallup poll. But as violent crime rates fell from record highs in the 1990s so did support for gun laws.

By 2011, only 43% of those surveyed by Gallup thought gun laws should be more strict.

Just one year later, 27 people, including 20 children, were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut.

In response, Americans’ support for stricter gun laws surged to 58%. As part of the renewed focus, lawmakers tried to pass legislation requiring more extensive background checks.

In 2013, a bipartisan bill put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., tried to do just that but failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

Now, almost 10 years after Sandy Hook, Americans remain deeply divided.

A Gallup poll from October 2021 found 52% of Americans wanted stricter gun laws but only 19% supported an outright ban on handguns.

Those opinions were largely split along partisan lines — 91% of Democrats wanted stricter gun laws, compared to 45% of Independents and just 24% of Republicans.

Historically, the public has been more supportive of tougher gun laws right after highly publicized mass shootings.

In March 2018, just weeks after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 67% of Americans thought gun laws should be more strict.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will pass meaningful legislation in response to the recent tragedies in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. In both instances, the firearms used were legally purchased by 18-year-old men.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told colleagues on the Senate floor Wednesday that he will not immediately bring gun control measures to the floor because he doesn’t expect them to muster enough Republican votes to pass.

Later this week, former President Donald Trump is expected to share his thoughts on the latest tragedy at the National Rifle Association’s Annual Leadership Forum.

On his social media platform Truth Social, the former president wrote:

“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship. That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA convention and deliver an important address to the nation.”

This year’s event is being held in Houston and begins Friday.

Multiple protests are already planned to oppose the most influential gun-lobbying group in the country, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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