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Keller @ Large: Will Congress make changes to background checks or ban assault weapons?

Will Congress pass changes for background checks or ban assault weapons? Jon Keller weighs in
Will Congress pass changes for background checks or ban assault weapons? Jon Keller weighs in 02:24

BOSTON -- In the wake of Tuesday's horrific mass murder at an elementary school in Texas, the calls for Congress to do something are everywhere. But what specific actions are they calling for, and what are the chances of them happening?


In Texas, there are no background checks for gun buyers. And tougher, background check requirements are a non-starter in Washington.

Over a year ago, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require private gun sellers to check the background of a buyer. Eight of the 220 House Republicans voted for it, but there is no Republican support in the Senate, and two Democrats, Sen. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are also opposed, so it's going nowhere.


What about a ban on the assault weapons that are repeatedly used in atrocities like this one?

We had one starting in 1994, and multiple studies show it had a positive impact. But it expired in 2004, and efforts to reinstate it since have failed. 

There was another attempt after the Sandy Hook massacre, where 20 children aged six to seven were killed, but it failed to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, as did yet another effort to require background checks nationwide. Four Republicans did support what was pitched as bi-partisan legislation, but four Democrats from pro-gun states voted no. Since then, nothing has even come to the floor for a vote.


Massachusetts has a "red flag" law that bars people deemed a threat to themselves or others from buying or possessing a gun. Any chance of that happening on a federal level?

Apparently not. Most of the 19 states that have red flag laws passed them after the Parkland School massacre in 2018, including Florida, where that atrocity occurred. But the momentum fizzled and no national red flag measure has ever made it the floor of Congress.


Is there any hope that what happened in Texas will spark a federal response?

According to the experts we spoke with today, no, there isn't. In fact, the Supreme Court is preparing to rule on a challenge to a New York law requiring people who want a gun license to show "proper cause."

If the court overturns it, that could seriously undercut state laws regulating gun ownership like the ones we have here in Massachusetts.


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