- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2022

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said Sunday he is hopeful that Capitol Hill negotiators can strike a deal to rein in gun violence, given the disgust over the elementary school shooting in which 19 children and two adults were killed in Uvalde, Texas.

Mr. Durbin said talks may pivot on red-flag laws that prevent people from owning firearms if they are demonstrating alarming conduct. He also called for a crackdown on “straw purchases,” in which a person with an unblemished background buys a gun and gives it to someone with a criminal record.

“America is sick and tired of political excuses,” the Illinois Democrat said. “We have to respond with something positive that shows America we care.”

Mr. Durbin said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is outspoken on guns, and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, are key players in talks. The majority whip told them to find some kind of bipartisan victory, even if it bypasses the typical committees. 

He said a full ban on military-style firearms like the AR-15 — sometimes dubbed “assault” weapons — is unlikely given the proliferation of the weapons in American households.

“The AR-15 that was used by this individual in Uvalde, there are now 20 million of those owned across the nation, just to be put into perspective,” Mr. Durbin said.

SEE ALSO: Texas state senator ‘disgusted’ by police response in Uvalde shooting

Vice President Kamala Harris called for a ban on such weapons during a visit Saturday to Buffalo, New York, to mourn with families after a gunman killed 10 persons while targeting Black shoppers at a grocery store on May 14.

“We are not sitting around waiting to figure out what the solution looks like. You know, we’re not looking for a vaccine. We know what works on this,” Ms. Harris told reporters in Buffalo. “Let’s have an assault weapons ban.”

Others have proposed raising the age for purchasing an AR-15 and similar weapons from 18 to 21, given the young age of recent perpetrators.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, expressed skepticism about the idea.

“Should 21 be the age you’re an adult?” the congressman said on CNN. If a 22-year-old commits an atrocity, “are we going to raise it again?”

Mr. Crenshaw said he does not support a universal background check provision that would cover private transfers between neighbors or friends. And he was wary of red-flag laws at the state or federal level, underscoring the long odds Democrats like Mr. Durbin face in getting bipartisan buy-in for their ideas.

“That’s a difficult thing to do,” Mr. Crenshaw said of red-flag implementation. “It’s really unclear how they’re properly enforced, how due process is properly adhered to.”

He said Republicans are more willing to support changes that could have an immediate impact, namely “actual security at school.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican who promoted a ban on bump stocks after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, said turning schools into tightly secured locations akin to military bases is not practical.

“That’s not the kind of country I want to live in,” Mr. Kinzinger told CNN.

Mr. Kinzinger said he would support raising the age for purchasing an AR-15 to 21.

He said more than 99% of AR-15 owners are responsible but he would be willing to discuss ways to restrict ownership, including whether a “special license” should be required.

“I’m definitely ready to engage in that conversation, and maybe that ultimately includes not selling them anymore,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s fine because, to me, I’m focused on saving life now.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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