National Focus Again Turns to Gun Control

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

Heavily lobbied and highly polarized, the gun control debate has once again, unfortunately, reached the forefront of the political debate, at both the state and federal level. Following two mass shootings over a single weekend in early August – one in Texas and the other in Ohio – calls have begun reverberating nationally and at the state level for further action to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.

To say the issue is controversial would be selling it short – it remains one of the most polarizing aspects of American politics. With fervent supporters on each side, it is one of the most lobbied issues around the country and one of the biggest motivators for voters. Like many of the issues dividing the country today, gun control largely falls on partisan lines, with Democrats favoring such measures and Republicans staunchly opposed to them. The partisanship of the issue has not, however, led to complete inaction at the state or federal level.

The most significant action undertaken recently has been the banning of bump stocks – firearm modifications that allow a semi-automatic gun to function similarly to a fully automatic one. This ban came shortly after a 2017 shooting in Las Vegas in which bump stocks were used. This time around, advocates are pushing to enact stricter background checks, and so called “extreme risk” laws, which would allow the confiscation of firearms from individuals deemed to be an extreme risk. Such efforts are already beginning to coalesce. In deep-red Kentucky, a bipartisan group of state senators have already announced that they will push for such a law. Other states are also moving forward with similar efforts.

New Mexico’s Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf is urging on the governor, fellow Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, to call the legislature into special session to address domestic terrorism. While it is unclear whether such a session will directly address gun control, it is highly likely given that Governor Grisham has previously supported such initiatives and the recent shooting in El Paso took place directly on the state’s border.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is also calling for new measures in the wake of the recent shootings. Governor DeWine released a package of gun reform proposals to his colleagues in the Republican-controlled legislature. The governor’s proposal is calling for both a red flag law, and enhanced background checks. The state legislature has recently been hostile to such measures, but the recent shooting in Dayton, alongside support of the governor, may push lawmakers in the state towards enacting such measures.

At the federal level, calls are growing for Republican President Donald Trump to call the U.S. Senate into session in order to address gun control. The Republican-controlled Senate is currently in recess and would be unlikely to pass such legislation without heavy pressure from the president himself. Gun control legislation would likely be able to pass the Democratic controlled House, but it would need the heavy lifting by the president to pass the Republican Senate. President Trump’s stance on the issue has waffled, leaning toward action following mass shootings, and away from it while on the campaign trail. He has recently stated that he is in favor of some background checks, but no concrete proposals have developed as of yet.

In recent years several red states have taken action on gun control, while others remain adamantly opposed to any infringements on second amendment rights. The coming legislative sessions will undoubtedly see strong pushes both for and against gun control measures. Support or opposition towards such policies will also be make or break for lawmakers up for reelection in 2020.