Congress is in its long August recess, but the House Judiciary Committee may return a week early to get moving on gun laws—something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to interrupt recess for. The House has already passed background check legislation, which McConnell has predictably blocked in the Senate. So the question is what else House Democrats will pass as they work to pressure McConnell to do anything about this crisis.
House Democrats are expected to get behind red flag laws and restrictions on high-capacity magazines to keep dangerous people from getting guns. Hate crimes legislation is another possibility, but the big question mark is whether Democrats have the votes to pass an assault weapons ban. We know that the assault weapons ban in place from 1994 to 2004 was effective, and reviving the policy has support from some Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018, but so far it’s short of the votes needed for passage.
“A House Democratic leadership aide also argued that it was better for their chamber to focus on McConnell’s lack of action on popular background-checks provisions,” The Washington Post reports, “rather than discussing Democrats ‘banning’ certain types of weapons, which this person said could be counterproductive.” This seems like a situation where Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time: hit McConnell for blocking legislation backed by an overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. and make the case that an assault weapons ban works and that, as Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Jason Crow, both military veterans, wrote, “We know the purpose of a gun that can fire hundreds of rounds in minutes. It’s not for hunting or for civilian self-defense. It’s for warfare.”
This whole situation is also a reminder of why having a House majority is both critical and not enough. It’s enough to pass some bills, like background checks and potentially a high-capacity magazines ban and a red flag bill. It’s useful for pressuring McConnell to get out of the way. But serious progress demands more.