Democrat says failure to pass gun legislation makes Congress complicit in violence

Sen. Richard Blumenthal arrives at the U.S. Capitol
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), walking at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, will lead a series of hearings about gun violence in the wake of two mass shootings in the last week.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

Following two mass shootings in less than a week, Washington is again confronting calls for federal gun-control legislation.

But the 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation in the Senate, where Democrats and independents hold just 50 seats, makes passage of large-scale reform unlikely.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to discuss gun violence and proposals to improve background checks for gun purchases online or at gun shows. The hearing was scheduled after a gunman killed eight people at Atlanta-area spas last week, and took place less than 24 hours after another man shot and killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.


The committee chairman, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), said it is the first in a series of planned hearings about gun violence, which will be led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Blumenthal said Tuesday that Congress’ lack of action on gun legislation has made it complicit in the violence.

“Inaction has made this horror completely predictable,” he said. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough, but thoughts and prayers are all we’ve heard from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised Tuesday he would bring background-check legislation to the Senate floor for a vote this year, but he has acknowledged the tough road to passage, even with Democrats in control.

President Biden has also said he supports “common sense” legislation that would prevent gun violence.

In early March, the House passed two bills to require universal background checks for gun purchases, including the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, which would require universal background checks on all commercial gun sales.


One of the measures, House Resolution 8, was sponsored by California Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who has been a leading proponent of gun-control legislation for years.

Both measures passed in the House along near party lines.

“That is not a good sign that all voices and all perspectives are being considered,” said Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Congress’ efforts should be focused on stopping people from committing crimes, rather than targeting gun ownership.

“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Cruz said at the hearing. “What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens.”