Developments on Day 402 of the Trump Administration:
Congress Reconvenes, 12 Days After Florida Mass Killing
Legislators return to Washington under pressure to act for gun control, 12 days after 14 students and three teachers were killed in a mass shooting in a Florida high school.
Survivors of the mass killing have led a campaign which has gathered strength, putting the White House and the National Rifle Association on the defense. Donald Trump has made minor concessions, such as a call for the ban of bump stocks — which convert semi-automatic to automatic weapons — and for background checks, which would reverse his Administration’s rollback of the gathering of information. However, the survivors and activists are seeking substantial action, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
A gentle reminder that all we are aiming for here is stricter gun laws that make it harder for people to get guns (because it shouldn't be easier than getting a drivers license) and the removal of Military Grade Weapons from Civilian Society. #BanAssaultRifles #GunContolNow
— Emma González (@Emma4Change) February 25, 2018
A poll released on Sunday indicated a rise in support for “stricter gun control laws” from 52% in October to 70% in February.
However, it is unclear if Congress will take even small steps. While individual senators — notably Marco Rubio of Florida, questioned by survivors last week in a high-profile town hall meeting — have made initial revisions to stances against any legislation, Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate have been silent.
Governors who gathered in Washington for their annual winter meeting warned of the danger of inaction. Some Republicans conceded that the surge in public opinion could not be ignored.
“I think for Republicans our challenge in the next race is going to be about appealing to the suburban vote that hasn’t been so good for Republicans the last few races,” said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. “People want to see action.”
But Congress is facing a deadline to act over immigration, with almost 800,000 young undocumented Dreamer immigrants at risk of deportation as the Trump Administration ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
And the Trump Administration still has not presented a final budget, forcing five extensions of supplementary funding and another needed in mid-March to keep the Federal Government open.
Republican Jeff Flake and Democratic Dianne Feinstein are introducing legislation in the Senate to raise the age limit for ownership of assault weapons from 18 to 21.
“I don’t know if crossing the Rubicon is the right historical analogy, but there is a sense that this is different,” Flake said. “Where the public is and where some Republicans have been on some of these issues just doesn’t match, and I do think we’re going to have to deal with it.”
Republican Senator Pat Roberts, a longtime ally of the NRA, said last week in his home state of Kansas, “Certainly nobody under 21 should have an AR-15.
But Flake is not seeking re-election, and Roberts, 81, is unlikely to run in 2020.
And some of the governors maintained their line against even limited change. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, opposing a rise in the age limit to 21 for assault weapons, said, “I think there’s a temptation just to do a whole host of things that are not really addressing the fundamental problem but would make people feel better that they’ve done things.”