Most independent polling suggests the American mainstream supports new gun restrictions as a way to curtail gun violence. Congressional Republicans continue to move in the opposite direction, taking aim at restrictions that already exist.
Roll Call reported yesterday, for example, on a provocative vote in the Senate.
Senate Democrats voted down a joint resolution Thursday that sought to block a Biden administration rule that toughens regulations on firearms with stabilizing braces. The 49-50 party-line vote on the Republican-backed measure, which passed the House but faced a veto threat from President Joe Biden, is the latest clash between GOP lawmakers and the administration over efforts to address gun violence and mass shootings.
I realize that no one will look at this vote as the year’s most important legislative clash, but I think there’s a larger significance to this.
To briefly recap, there are devices known as stabilizing braces that shooters can attach to their arms to make it easier to fire weapons with one hand. The devices, which are sometimes referred to as pistol braces, have been subjected to new restrictions by the Biden administration, which as The Hill recently explained, “would reclassify pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles. It would also require people with existing pistols that have stabilizing braces to register the firearms.”
The administration’s goal, of course, is to hopefully save lives, since, as Politico noted, stabilizing braces have been “used in several mass shootings over the last decade.” (One of the guns used in the Nashville school shooting, for instance, was reportedly an AR-15 equipped with a stabilizing brace.)
What congressional Republicans tried to do was prevent the safeguard from being implemented. In fact, the GOP-led House passed just such a measure last week, and nearly had the votes to pass the Senate, too, though it fell a little short in the upper chamber.
At face value, this might not seem too surprising: It’s not exactly a secret that congressional Republicans are closely aligned with the gun industry and oppose safeguards intended to prevent gun violence. What I did find especially notable, however, was the scope of the GOP support.
In other words, in the wake of several deadly mass shootings, and just days before the anniversary of President Joe Biden signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, literally more than 99% of congressional Republicans tried to block implementation of a modest policy that might help prevent future mass slayings.
The GOP’s so-called moderates in the Senate — a contingent that includes Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — went along with their party, despite knowing that Biden would veto the measure if it passed, which it didn’t.
On the floor Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “Pistol braces make it easier to conceal and transport weapons that function as highly dangerous short-barreled rifles — and in many instances have been accessories of choice in recent mass shootings. Some of these mass shooters choose these braces to cause mayhem and we are loosening the rules on them, it’s hard to believe our Republican friends are doing this.
“How on Earth can Republicans look at our nation’s gun violence and think the right answer is to make these accessories easier to own? How can Republicans look away from tragedies in Dayton, in Boulder, and in Nashville, and in so many other places where pistol braces were involved, and conclude we should reverse commonsense gun safety rules?”
Every single GOP senator responded by voting to block the safeguard anyway.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”