Sen. Chris Murphy urges Biden to not get involved in bipartisan gun talks

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Sen. Christopher Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat leading bipartisan talks to get gun laws passed, urged President Biden on Sunday to stay out of the negotiations or risk scuttling a deal.

Mr. Biden’s calls for far-reaching changes to gun laws added to the deluge of Democratic gun control proposals in Congress, making it harder to strike a bipartisan deal needed to get legislation passed, lawmakers say.

“I think the Senate needs to do this ourselves,” Mr. Murphy said on CNN. “I’ve talked to the White House every single day since these negotiations began, but right now the Senate needs to handle these negotiations.”

Mr. Murphy and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, are leading the negotiations to get a deal that can garner the 60 votes needed for legislation to survive in the Senate. The talks center on incremental changes to background checks and federal incentives for states to adopt “red flag” laws that allow authorities to confiscate firearms from people whom a court deems dangerous.

Mr. Biden nearly upended those negotiations last week with a prime-time address to the nation in which he called for, among other things, universal background checks and a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles or “assault weapons.” Such proposals have thwarted Congress for nearly two decades.

“Right now we’re trying to discover what can get 60 votes,” said Mr. Murphy. “We’re not going to do everything I want. We are not going to put a piece of legislation on the table that’s going to ban assault weapons, or we’re not going to pass comprehensive background checks.”

In his speech to the nation, Mr. Biden urged Congress to change liability laws to allow gun manufacturers to be sued for shootings and make gun owners liable for not keeping their firearms locked up.

“This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s about protecting children, about protecting families. … It’s about protecting our freedom to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church without being shot and killed.”

The get-tough gun laws offered by Mr. Biden and similar legislation being teed up by House Democrats have virtually no chance of passing the Senate which is split 50-50 between the parties, according to critics on both sides of the aisle.

“He gave a speech on this topic where he advocated policies that he knows for sure have no chance of passing the Senate. [They] probably couldn’t even get 50 votes, much less get the 60 we would need,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican involved in the bipartisan talks, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “So, once again, the president is not being very helpful.”

Both sides of the gun debate agree that the carnage must stop after a series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Both sides also reject most of the other’s ideas as impractical or ineffective, including Democrats’ dismissal of Republican proposals to fortify school security.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, plans for her chamber to pass an ambitious package of gun control measures dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act. The legislation would raise the federal age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, create “safe storage” laws for gun owners and ban “high-capacity” ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, though existing magazines are grandfathered.

It would codify President Trump’s ban on bump stocks that allow rifles to fire rapidly like a machine gun, and it would impose background checks for “ghost gun” kits to assemble handguns.

“Saving our children can and must be a unifying mission for our nation,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

She also announced plans to consider a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles and legislation allowing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders that ban purchasing or possessing firearms.

Despite the bills heading to certain death in the Senate, House Democrats say the legislation will increase public pressure on Senate Republicans to back some type of change to gun laws

“As we go down this path, it is our responsibility to keep gun violence front and center in the media so that, strengthened by public opinion, we can get lifesaving legislation over the finish line,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The volume of gun control proposals, however, risks unnerving senators involved in the bipartisan talks. The focus on get-tough bills that have no hope of passing, lawmakers say, is only stoking partisan ire.

“Look, we’re talking about background checks,” Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, said after the Uvalde shooting. “If we talk about anything more than that, it’s just silly. … [An assault weapons ban] isn’t going to pass if you can’t get background checks done.”

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