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Following mass shootings, GOP votes to weaken gun safeguards

As Biden attends a summit on the anniversary of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, congressional Republicans are eager to go in a different direction.


It’s been about a year since President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major legislation to address gun violence that passed Congress in nearly three decades. With the anniversary in mind, the Democrat will speak at a summit in Connecticut today, intended to focus on how the measure has already helped make a difference.

The evidence suggests the president will have an encouraging story to tell. The Associated Press reported, “Stepped-up FBI background checks have blocked more than 200 transactions of attempted purchasers under the age of 21. Prosecutions have increased for unlicensed gun sellers, and new gun trafficking penalties have been charged in more than 100 cases around the country. Prosecutions for those who sell firearms without a license doubled.”

On Capitol Hill, however, Republicans apparently want to go in a very different direction. Roll Call reported this week:

House Republicans passed a joint resolution Tuesday that would overturn the Biden administration’s rule to tighten federal regulations on pistol braces, an effort that faces a veto threat from President Joe Biden. Tuesday’s 219-210 vote, which included two Democrats voting for the measure and two Republicans voting against it, comes days after the administration’s rule was set to go into effect.

At issue is a Biden administration policy, announced in January, related to firearm “stabilizing braces.” As a report in The Hill explained, “The proposal, put forth by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), would reclassify pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles. It would also require people with existing pistols that have stabilizing braces to register the firearms with the government by May 31, 2023.”

The measure championed by House Republicans would prevent the safeguard from being implemented. The New Republic summarized the larger context well:

While the stabilizing brace has been used by gun owners without full use of both of their arms, the attachment has also enabled mass shooters to cause further destruction. One of the guns reportedly used in the Nashville school shooting that left six people dead, for instance, was an AR-15 pistol equipped with a stabilizing brace. Such an attachment was also used in the 2021 mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store that left 10 people dead. Nevertheless, Republicans voted to weaken oversight over such weapons — just days after survivors from numerous mass shootings visited the Hill to ask members of Congress for even a smidgen of meaningful action on guns.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are trying to use a procedural tactic known as “discharge petitions” to force votes on several new safeguards related to preventing gun violence, including an assault weapons ban and two bills to impose tougher background checks for gun sales. To succeed, they’ll need at least five Republicans to join their effort.

Yesterday, Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania — generally seen as Congress’ most moderate GOP member on gun policy — said he will not sign the discharge petition, arguing that the bills couldn’t overcome a Senate Republican filibuster, so there wasn’t any point to forcing a vote on legislation that won’t become law.