GOP’s Cornyn tipped to lead as Senate discusses gun law changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Less than 48 hours after a gunman stormed an elementary school and killed 19 children and two teachers in his home state of Texas, Senator John Cornyn walked straight from the U.S. Senate floor into the office of Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

The Texas Republican had just returned to Washington from the scene of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde when he was called in by McConnell to lead the GOP in tense negotiations over a possible legislative response to the tragedy. Eager, if suspicious, he took the job.

“I’m not interested in making a political statement,” Cornyn said at the time. “I’m actually interested in what we can do to make the terrible events that happened in Uvalde less likely in the future.”

Cornyn is at the center of a bipartisan group of senators working hard to try to broker a compromise on gun safety legislation, a political long run despite heartbreaking pleas from the Uvalde community to “do something.” after the massacre.

A four-term senator, Cornyn has been here many times before, a central figure at the forefront of recurring discussions with Democrats over gun policy changes that almost never pass. As gun owners and the powerful gun lobby wield influence, Congress has proven unable to respond in any substantive way, even as more gruesome mass shootings tear communities across the country. America.

Along with his former negotiating partner, Sen. Chris Murphy-D-Conn., Cornyn convened a small group of four senators to meet privately this week, some part of a larger group led by Murphy in a desperate search of possible compromise firearms safety measures.

President Joe Biden has implored Congress — and especially Republican senators, who have spent years blocking nearly every gun control measure — to act.

“This time it’s time for the Senate to do something,” Biden said in remarks from the White House.

Biden, too, is looking to Cornyn to lead.

“I think there’s an awareness on the part of rational Republicans – and I think Senator McConnell is a rational Republican; I think Cornyn is too — I think there’s a recognition in their party that they — we can’t go on like this,” Biden said earlier in the week after his visit to Texas.

Expectations are low that even the most modest gun control measures can find support among Republicans in Congress, especially in the 50-50 evenly split Senate where at least 60 votes are needed to push legislation forward in beyond a buccaneer.

Senators aren’t even expected to broach ideas for assault weapons bans or other popular restrictions with the public as potential ways to curb the deadliest mass shootings.

Instead, the bipartisan group is stepping up talks to reach an agreement on phased changes to national gun laws, after a decade of mostly unsuccessful efforts since a gunman killed 20 children in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

At most, the senators will be able to reach a consensus in a few distinct areas – strengthening school security measures; add more mental health resources to communities; and maybe send money to states to encourage red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who might do harm.

“That may be all they can do,” said Matthew Bennett, a longtime gun policy advocate at the centrist think tank Third Way.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Congress tackled sweeping gun safety legislation with the passage of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which has since expired.

One of the only gun-related bills to become law in the decade following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was Cornyn’s fix-NICS bill – a modest effort he and Murphy have developed to encourage states to comply with record keeping of the National Instant Criminal Background Check. System.

Cornyn first pushed the bill forward after another tragedy in his state, the 2017 church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when the Air Force court-martial case for violence domestic had not been sent for inclusion in the federal database used for firearms purchases. .

The Fix-NICS bill stalls in the Senate, until months later another gunman opens fire on a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 in a massacre on the day of Valentine’s Day in 2018.

“Let’s do what we can and build from there,” Cornyn said at the time.

But by then Democrats and some Republicans were circulating broader proposals and Donald Trump, who was president, suggested raising the legal age to buy guns to 21. But the efforts fell through after Trump had an Oval Office meeting with the National Rifle Association.

The Fix-NICS bill was finally approved by Congress, not on its own, but after being included in a government funding measure later in the spring. He had the support of the NRA.

Cornyn, who has an A+ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund for his support of Second Amendment issues, said last week that the Uvalde killings could provide momentum for further reform.

A former judge and member of the Supreme Court of Texas, Cornyn, 70, is a member of McConnell’s leadership team and widely considered a candidate to become leader of the Republican Senate whenever McConnell retires. McConnell tasked him with working with Murphy as well as Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a negotiator close to Republicans.

A multiple gun owner who hunts frequently in Texas, Cornyn did not attend the NRA convention in Houston alongside Trump and fellow GOP Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the days following the Uvalde shooting, even as he rejected some of the red flag laws or broader federal gun policy changes being proposed.

“He’s the central figure — or at least one of them — because he has the respect of Republicans but is also a critical thinker,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., About Corny.

“If he really wants to do it, he will potentially make a crucial difference.”

Many Democrats doubt Senate Republicans are coming to the table. Already, the Senate has desperately blocked two measures passed by the House to strengthen background checks for gun purchases online or at gun shows.

Instead, House Democrats are moving forward with their own set of gun safety measures, the “Protecting Our Children Act,” which includes raising age limits for purchases of semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. He has almost no hope of making it to the Senate.

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