WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) worked with colleague Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to pass gun safety legislation in 2013, thinking that they could pull off a bipartisan bill. Even though there was support for the bill, they didn't have a 60-vote supermajority to pass it. Once again, the filibuster came into play and Manchin, as we know, is unwilling to take steps to fix the filibuster.
Now that there is a renewed conversation over any possible gun safety legislation, the Senate has returned to face off against officials who refuse any gun safety measures, whether or not it has public support.
Manchin explained that his 2013 bill was "the most reasonable piece of legislation we've ever had." Yet, it too went down. At the time, Manchin maintained that he could fix the crisis of mass shootings.
Nearly a decade later, Manchin told Raw Story this week that there must be red flag laws like those passed in 19 states that allow a judge to remove the weapons from individuals who are suffering mental health crises. Such laws wouldn't have stopped many of the mass shootings, but it would have stopped some.
Manchin was also willing to support age restrictions on firearm sales. While it's federally mandated that a person purchasing alcohol or tobacco be 21 years old, guns are available to anyone at the age of 18. In the Uvalde, Texas shooting that killed 21 people, primarily children, the shooter purchased his assault weapons and considerable rounds of ammunition on his 18th birthday.
Manchin explained that he's open to "anything" and that "pride of authorship isn't what this should be about." His 2013 legislation wasn't about the pride of authorship, however, he claimed that he could craft bipartisan legislation that others had failed to do for over a decade. Yet, when he tried to do it, he too failed.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been unwilling to talk about anything that would restrict access to guns but maintains that "mental health" problems are what is truly at issue. A major concern with mental health is that the U.S. dramatically slashed funding to mental health services beginning in the 1980s. Those cuts have continued since then. Former President Donald Trump's 2019 budget, for example, asked for a 21 percent decrease in funding for mental health services.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) similarly said that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) put together a pilot that could be scaled nationally that would allow for greater access to mental health services.
President Jimmy Carter (D-GA) was the last president who signed The Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 (MHSA) which gave substantial grants to community mental health centers. Not long after, however, President Ronald Regan and the GOP-led House and Senate slashed the funding. As Dr. E. Fuller Torrey wrote, Regan, who was shot by a man with schizophrenia, was a product of the belief "that associated psychiatry with Communism."
Even NRA board member Judge Phillip Journey of Kansas made it clear that Republicans might blame mental health issues, but they have no interest in actually fixing mental health issues. In an interview with CNN's Jim Acosta, he recalled being in Topeka, Kansas when the famous Menninger Foundation was defunded along with all other mental health facilities in the United States during the early 1980s.
"Physicians, psychiatrists and other leading experts told ABC News that it is inaccurate to assert that 'mental health issues' are solely or primarily responsible for the United States’ ongoing rash of gun violence," said one report.
One 2019 study found that, at most, only one-third of mass shootings are committed by those with mental health issues. A more recent report cited less than 5 percent of violent actions are linked to mental illness. The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence cited one of the first peer-reviewed research papers that calculated two-thirds of mass shootings could be linked to domestic violence.
Lawmakers like Cruz could be faced with deciding which mental illnesses an individual must have to block them from getting a gun. It would then mean that the private health records of an individual would be shared with the state to prevent them from accessing such weapons, which would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Teachers have already responded to Cruz with mass protests over his remarks in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting.
Sen. Toomey (R-PA) still wants to expand background checks as a way to stop the mass shooting epidemic. He would only say that he was open to many options, but wouldn't tell Raw Story how exactly to do that. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) indicated last week, however, that any "fix" to background checks was already off the table for Republicans.
Tillis went on to tell Raw Story that there are "dealers" who are viewed as "hobbyists" who can sell guns. He wants to close that loophole. He cited the Aug. 31, 2019, mass shooting in Odessa, Texas in which a man purchased the guns from an individual because he likely couldn't pass a background check at a traditional gun shop.
"They're doing it at a level that's clearly not a hobby, so it's part of business," said Tillis. "So, it's really just saying, anyone who fits this pattern with an [Federal Firearms License] should be required to do a background check."
His comment comes less than 24 hours after Tillis told the press that AR-15s are necessary because farmers need to use them to kill rodents. It's a theory that would justify using any otherwise illegal weapons like grenade launchers or flame-throwers.
With additional reporting from Matt Laslo.