In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston , South Carolina last week, controversy has raged over the flying of the Confederate battle flag across the south. As the debate over the flag has captured national attention, there has been little effort made in Washington for a renewed push for gun control.
In contrast to the major push for new regulations on firearms after 26 children were shot and killed in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, the deaths of nine African American churchgoers during Bible study has not sparked a similar legislative effort on Capitol Hill.
While the Washington Post suggested on Wednesday that both West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey were interested in reviving a bill proposed after Newtown to make background checks mandatory for all gun purchases, the offices of both senators dismissed any such effort to the Guardian. Their original bill, known as Manchin-Toomey , failed to attain the 60-vote supermajority needed to advance in the Senate by a margin of 54 to 46 in 2013 when that chamber had a Democratic majority.
Although Toomey told the Washington Post he was trying to figure out where there was “something that could get the support of the 60 votes that we would need in the Senate”, a spokesperson for Toomey said that it would be erroneous to describe the Pennsylvania Republican as “revisiting” his 2013 bill. Rather, Toomey “is open to exploring”, ER Anderson said.
A spokesperson for Manchin simply noted to the Guardian that the legislative math makes a renewed push for gun safety regulations more difficult this year.
“There are [fewer] votes now than there were two years ago,” Jonathan Kott said. A Senate Republican aide who handles gun issues echoed his statement, saying “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, then we’ll pass a gun control bill.”
With legislative gridlock in Washington stalling even those bills with support from a majority on Capitol Hill, it’s difficult to see a path for any gun control legislation moving forward.
But Senate minority leader Harry Reid pled for action on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “We must prevent felons and the mentally ill from gunning down even more Americans in broad daylight,” said the Nevada Democrat. “If we do not, we will be here again.”
Additional reporting by Dan Roberts