Good morning, Bulletin readers. While they continue to wait for the White House’s position, supporters of expanding gun background checks are reading the tea leaves, and they are not encouraged.
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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY
Prospects for a bipartisan gun reform package look shaky. The Hill has a fresh round-up of the state of play in Washington. “I don’t think anyone thinks he’s [President Trump] going to endorse the Toomey bill, which is weaker than the House bill,” said a senior Democratic aide about the Senate version of legislation to extend background checks to private sales. Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Joe Manchin, who in a call last week urged the president to back the bill, also expressed doubts. “They told us we would hear back by Thursday and we didn’t hear anything on Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday,” Murphy said. “Silence is probably indicative that they’re not willing to move.” Manchin likewise said he hadn’t heard from White House staff. In a tweet, Trump sought to cast doubt on Democrats’ motives. “The big questions are will they ‘move the goalposts’ and, is this just a ploy to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY?” he posted. “I hope NOT on both counts, but I’ll be able to figure it out!”
The National Rifle Association nearly doubled its spending on Facebook ads after El Paso and Dayton. Over a three-week period beginning just hours after the shootings in August, the gun group’s lobbying arm spent $360,000 on ads that portrayed gun rights as under attack, The Intercept reported.
Meanwhile, the gun group’s political arm has posted a decline in fundraising. The NRA Political Victory Fund reported nearly $6.7 million in donations to the Federal Election Commission through the end of July, nearly $2 million less than what it raised during the same period last year. The conservative Washington Free Beacon reports that an overwhelming share of its haul came from small donors. The PVF lost its chairman, former NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox, during the power struggle that erupted this summer following reports of self-dealing and financial mismanagement under NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.
Senator Dianne Feinstein reiterated her call for a high-capacity magazine buyback. In an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, the senior senator from California advocated for a bill, introduced in January, which would ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The legislation would allocate federal funds to buy back devices already in circulation.
Ohio lawmakers start hearings on gun reform legislation. The state Senate will begin debate on several measures today, including bills that expand background checks, establish a red flag law, and raise the minimum age to buy guns to 21. In the aftermath of last month’s Dayton shooting, Republican Governor Mike DeWine introduced a 17-point plan for new reforms. The GOP-controlled Legislature had long opposed many of the proposals.
Another supermarket chain asked shoppers to stop openly carrying guns in its stores. Giant Eagle, which has stores in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, joins a growing list of retailers encouraging the policy. HuffPost’s Melissa Jeltsen notes that the effort to persuade America’s most popular supermarket and restaurant chains to stop allowing guns in their stores was first spearheaded by moms after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Background checks rise after a month of mass shootings. The FBI charted a 17 percent increase in August over July and a 14 percent increase from the same time last year. (The government does not track gun sales, so federal background check figures are often used as a proxy.) In two states with recent high-profile shootings, Ohio and Texas, checks in August were up 30 percent and 46 percent, respectively. Research has shown that gun sales rise after shootings. “Fear-buying” is a leading theory, positing that buyers acquire new firearms out of concern for safety or new restrictions.
Gabrielle Giffords will hold a political rally outside NRA headquarters. The former congresswoman and shooting survivor plans to endorse pro-gun reform 2020 candidates in front of the gun group’s offices in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday, along with former Governor Terry McAuliffe.
ONE LAST THING
The key GOP senators for passing gun reform. If the Senate does take up the background check bill passed by the House in February, it would need 13 Republican votes to break a potential filibuster, assuming every Democrat and Independent senator voted in favor. According to The Hill, the key GOP senators to watch are Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Martha McSally, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Thom Tillis, and Pat Toomey. Collins and Toomey, the GOP sponsor of the current bill, are the only Republicans who voted for it when it last came to a vote in 2013. Romney has suggested he would support a version of Toomey’s new bill. Several others are awaiting word from Trump before staking their position.