The Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, the leading Republican on the Senate judiciary committee, blocked a request on Thursday to proceed on gun control legislation in the Senate following the Michigan school shooting this week.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut and leading gun control advocate, requested unanimous consent on Thursday to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would require new background checks for gun transfers between private parties, as well as expand a 10-day review for gun purchases and transfers.
The legislation, passed by the House in March, would also prohibit a firearm from being transferred among individuals unless a licensed dealer or manufacturer carries out a background check.
“I want to tell you why I’m making this request. I understand the low likelihood of success, but I hope many of my colleagues took a minute to watch the cellphone video from the school shooting in Michigan,” Murphy said, referring to the surveillance footage in which 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly emerged from a bathroom with a pistol and a 15-round magazine, firing at classmates and teachers.
He went on to call the footage “absolutely terrifying to watch”, adding, “All of those kids who fled that violence, all of those kids who now don’t think of school as a safe place, they are going through trauma and will go through trauma that will take a lifetime to address.”
Murphy acknowledged that the expansion of background checks would not have necessarily prevented the school shooting but affirmed that they would nevertheless make a difference.
“I don’t claim that this proposal nor any other proposal to change the nation’s gun laws will have an effect on every single shooting” but argued that expanded background checks “saves lives, decreases gun violence, [and] decreases violent crime”.
However, Grassley blocked the request, condemning it as “hostile towards lawful gun owners and lawful firearm transactions”.
He argued that “so-called universal background checks will not prevent crime and will turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
Grassley went on to promote his own bill, which is sponsored with the Republican senators Ted Cruz and Thom Tillis, as a better alternative. The Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2021 seeks to prevent gun violence by ensuring that government agencies accurately submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Murphy objected to the bill when Grassley requested unanimous consent, arguing that “it is a massive contraction of the universal background check system rather than what Americans support, which is an expansion of the background check system.”
He added that the Republican party cares “more about the health of the gun industry and their profits than they do about the health of our kids.”