Biden: Deal on Gun Law Hinges on ‘Rational Republicans’...

Biden: Deal on Gun Law Hinges on ‘Rational Republicans’ Like McConnell

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President Joe Biden on May 30 said that any deal on new gun laws in the wake of several mass shootings hinges on “rational Republicans” and that he’s limited in terms of what he can do through executive orders.

Biden, who spoke to reporters outside the White House in Washington after traveling from his home in Delaware, said he believes the situation has gotten so bad that “everybody is getting more rational about it,” or becoming more likely to support restrictions on gun ownership.

Asked if he has a responsibility to act as president, he said: “I can’t dictate this stuff. I can do the things I’ve done and any executive action I can take, I’ll continue to take. But I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t change a background check. I can’t do that.”

Biden also said he hadn’t been negotiating with any GOP members of Congress yet, although he said he thought they would have to “take a hard look” at getting behind new legislation. He said he viewed both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) as “rational Republicans” with whom compromise may be possible.

McConnell recently directed Cornyn to negotiate with some Democrats to try to reach an agreement on legislation, with the goal of coming up with something that would be “directly related” to the mass shooting that left 22 dead, including the shooter, at an elementary school in Texas on May 24.

“I’m interested in trying to figure out what it is we might be able to do that would make that kind of event less likely in the future right now,” Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill around the same time.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who supports gun control, said on May 29 that bipartisan negotiations were underway.

“There are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have ever seen since Sandy Hook,” he said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he’s been in touch with, among others, Cornyn and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Because of Senate rules, any legislation would need support from at least 60 senators. The upper chamber is split between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, including two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

“I couldn’t count 60 at this point, but I hope we’ll get there,” Toomey told reporters.

Murphy has suggested increasing the age for an individual to be able to buy a semi-automatic rifle. The shooter in Texas was 18, according to officials, and purchased two rifles legally.

“I’m not taking anything off the table except for denying people their constitutional rights who are law-abiding citizens,” Cornyn said.

Some other Republicans have urged caution, saying mental health issues are a key factor in mass shootings.

“Tragedies like the event of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions, demanding that we see where our culture is failing,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on May 27 during a National Rifle Association event. “We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the Constitution or infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens.”

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.

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