Senate gun control debate deadlocked after Uvalde Texas shooting; All Republicans vote against the Domestic Terrorism Act

WASHINGTON — Democrats’ first attempt to respond to the back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, foundered Thursday in the Senate when Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism bill that opens debate on difficult issues around hate crimes and guns would have security.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. was trying to get Republicans to include a domestic terrorism bill that the House was quick to clear last week after mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and a church in Southern California that targeted people of color. He said it could become the basis for negotiations.

But the vote failed along party lines, raising new doubts about the possibility of a robust debate, let alone a potential compromise, on gun safety measures. The final vote was 47-47, less than the 60 needed to include the bill. All Republicans voted against.

“None of us are under any illusions that this is going to be easy,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.

The rejection of the bill highlighted the proliferation of mass shootings across the United States, with the Senate in the unusual position of having to keep up with the violence — the vote on shooting response legislation in Buffalo and California, which has so far been overshadowed Another massacre, this time at a Texas elementary school, killed 19 children and two teachers.

SEE MORE: 19 kids, 2 teachers killed in Texas shooting

Schumer said he will give bipartisan Senate negotiations about two weeks — the next 10 days while Congress is on hiatus — to try to forge a compromise bill that could pass the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

A small, bipartisan group of senators who have been trying to negotiate gun laws for years huddled together in the Capitol Wednesday night. But so far, there seemed to be little appetite among Republicans for big changes. Schumer acknowledged Democrats’ “deep skepticism” about an agreement.

“I’m confident the momentum is building,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is leading the negotiations. “But I’ve failed many times.”

Murphy has campaigned to enforce gun laws since the 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 20 children and six teachers.

RELATED: Senator Chris Murphy asks for weapons compromise after Texas school shooting

Democrats’ best hopes for a legislative partner may be Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who, following devastating church shootings in 2017, introduced a modest bill in his state to encourage compliance with background checks on gun purchases during the Trump era.

Cornyn said he and Murphy have been in touch and discussed these issues at length to try to find a compromise. “Maybe that’s an impetus,” he said of the Uvalde attack.

Still, Cornyn warned that “limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens will not make our communities or our country any safer.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told reporters that a bill he’s been working on for the past decade to expand background checks for firearm sales still doesn’t have enough support to move forward in the Senate. “I couldn’t count 60 at that point,” he said, “but I hope we can do it.”

In a show of GOP opposition to postponing the gun policy debate, several Republican senators took the floor Thursday to discuss other issues — immigration, border security and, in the case of Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell, the fight of the nation against inflation.

The domestic terrorism bill, which failed Thursday, dates back to 2017 when Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., first proposed it after mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The House of Representatives passed a similar measure by ballot in 2020, only to have it languish in the Senate. Since then, Republicans have opposed the legislation, with only one GOP lawmaker supporting passage in the House of Representatives last week.

“What had broad bipartisan support two years ago, because of the political climate that we find ourselves in … or more specifically, the political climate that Republicans find themselves in, we are unable to take a stand against domestic terrorism.” said Schneider, who took office after the Sandy Hook school shooting, told The Associated Press.

Republicans say the bill doesn’t put enough emphasis on fighting domestic terrorism perpetrated by far-left groups. Under the bill, agencies would have to produce a joint report every six months that assesses and quantifies domestic terrorism threats at the national level, including threats from white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.

Proponents say the bill will close the gaps in information sharing between the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI so officers can better track and respond to the growing threat of white extremist terrorism.

That effort would focus on spreading racist ideologies online, such as the substitution theory, which investigators say motivated an 18-year-old white gunman to drive three hours to carry out a livestreamed racist killing spree at a crowded Buffalo convenience store two weeks ago . Or the animosity against Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Laguna Woods, California, which resulted in one man being shot dead and five others wounded the following day.

While Schneider acknowledged that his legislation may not have stopped these attacks, he said it would ensure these federal agencies work together to better identify, predict, and stop threats.

The three federal agencies are already working to investigate, prevent and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism under current law. But the bill would require every agency to open offices specifically dedicated to these tasks and establish an interagency task force to combat the subversion of white supremacy in the military.

GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky slammed this aspect of the bill, calling it an “insult to every police officer in this country” and an “insult to everyone in our armed forces.”

The proposal would come close to creating new federal laws needed to prosecute terrorism domestically the same way the US prosecutes attacks inspired by foreign groups. No new criminal offenses or new lists of designated domestic terrorist groups would be created. Nor would it give law enforcement additional investigative powers.

But proponents say it would be important to help the administration comprehensively assess the volume of domestic terrorist attacks and threats in the US for the first time

“This alone won’t do much to actually address the domestic terrorism threat directly, but to me this is like the first step,” said Mary McCord, who serves as a senior Justice Department national security official in the Obama administration and in the US Obama administration was active early Trump era.

SEE MORE: Mass shootings in the US have nearly tripled since 2013, Gun Violence Archive data shows

Associated Press contributors Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Senate gun control debate deadlocked after Uvalde Texas shooting; All Republicans vote against the Domestic Terrorism Act

Dais Johnston

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