What’s Next in America’s Battle for Gun Safety?

Gun Safety Rally

From aggressive firearm ads to legal loopholes, to school security, it’s a partisan fight on all fronts.

Two weeks ago, gun manufacturer Daniel Defense posted a photo on its social media showing a little boy cradling an assault rifle in his lap. The caption read: “Train up a child in the way he should go.” It was Salvador Ramos’ 18th birthday. The following week, Ramos slaughtered 19 children and 2 adults using two military-style rifles bought from Daniel Defense. 

Gun companies target young buyers

Daniel Defense has become infamous for its aggressive, alarming marketing style. It regularly promotes ads designed to appeal to kids — featuring references to the game Call of Duty, and characters from Star Wars. The company’s founder and chief executive, Marty Daniel, prides himself on provocation and has rubbished gun control proposals. All this, even though Daniel Defense weapons were found in the hotel room of the perpetrator responsible for one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history — the massacre of 59 people at a Las Vegas festival in 2017.

Last week’s horrifying massacre has bought the gun industry’s increasingly direct-to-consumer business model and aggressive advertising into sharp focus. The audacious marketing style that’s become so popular mirrors the relaxed ease with which people can currently buy firearms in this country — in many cases, even despite laws set up to protect the public. 

Schumer pushes for a negotiated compromise

There are small glimmers of hope, however. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is spearheading an urgent attempt to reach a compromise on gun laws. The effort faces renewed pressure following President Biden’s promise to Uvalde families on Sunday that “we will” do something about gun violence — and highlights the position of a Senate known for its filibusters and dischord.

“We need to show Republicans that they can strengthen the background check system in a meaningful way and get politically rewarded for it,”  chief Democratic negotiator Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut said in an interview. “That’s why I’m willing to look at things that might be less than what I would like.”

Kinzinger changes his mind on gun laws

In a promising development, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger has said he’d be open to a federal ban on AR-15 rifles in the wake of Uvalde.

“Look, I have opposed a ban, you know, fairly recently. I think I’m open to a ban now. It’s going to depend on what it looks like because there’s a lot of nuances on what constitutes, you know, certain things,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union,” after Dana Bash asked whether he was still against banning the sort of assault weapons used at Robb Elementary School.

Per CNN, Kinzinger is willing to back universal background checks, “red flag” laws and increasing the age at which customers can buy high-capacity magazines. He explained that he’s shifted his position since the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017. “At that point it’s like, ‘OK, this is getting out of hand,'” he said. “The problem is everyone is scared to inaction. They’re frightened of the loudest voices. And 90% of Americans are begging that we do something.”

Efforts to tighten background checks redouble

Meanwhile, Democrats’ efforts to close loopholes in background checks have been redoubled, with a focus on two key bills. The HR 1446 bill aims to close the “Charleston loophole,” which currently means that some licensed gun sales are allowed before background checks are satisfied, as purchases proceed by default after three business days. HR 1446 would extend the period to 10 business days.

The HR 8 bill, which passed the House last year, would extend the background check requirement to cover all gun sales and transfers — since, at the moment, background checks aren’t required for firearms sales by private and unlicensed vendors. Unfortunately, HR 8 is unlikely to survive the Senate’s filibuster rules.

Republicans call for tougher school security

All these efforts stand in stark contrast with Republican calls to “harden” schools — despite the fact that many of the security measures they’re calling for were already in place in Uvalde.

“I think what needs to change is the things that would have the most immediate and succinct effect, and tangible effect on these things. And that’s actual security at a school,” Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas told CNN, adding that this would be “fairly easy to afford.”

The NRA emphasized school safety following the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Per The Hill, an advertising firm that used to work with the group accused it of using the spotlight on school safety as a fundraising gimmick.

Republican Rep. Clay Higgins, an ex-law enforcement officer who belonged to a SWAT team, has cautioned against taking measures — like heavy fencing around schools — too far.

“We don’t want our kids to go into school in a prison,” Higgins told The Hill. “A school should be an environment that encourages free thought and creativity. Look what happened to our kids — you know, the psychological studies are coming out now — what happened to our kids wearing masks for a year and a half.” 

A vital conversation on reducing gun violence

Amid all this noise and partisan strife, the mourning citizens of Uvalde have begun to bury their dead. If you’re still feeling bereft, angry and frustrated about all of this, watch Katie’s conversation with Robyn Thomas, one of the smartest, most thoughtful people on the subject. And get involved in efforts to reduce gun violence in this country. Please.