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Biden Asks for Gun Control Legislation. Will Congress Listen?

As the administration calls for gun control measures, many congressmembers, including from Kansas and Missouri, have remained silent. A poll found that only 39 percent of Missourians supported a semi-automatic weapon ban.

(TNS) — The response at the White House to a high-profile mass shooting has become routine.

The White House press office puts out a statement. President Joe Biden offers prayers for the victims and thanks first responders. And he calls on Congress to pass comprehensive gun reform, including legislation to ban semi-automatic weapons.

On Monday, a day after a shooter at a shopping mall in Cleveland, Texas killed at least eight people and wounded seven more, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre placed the blame at the feet of Republicans in Congress.

“This is a crisis,” Jean-Pierre said. “It is a crisis that Republicans in Congress are refusing to address. We’re talking about the number 1 killer of kids in America and the Republicans are saying there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The White House is pushing for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, stronger background checks, universal background checks, requiring safe storage and ending immunity for gun manufacturers.

None of it is likely to get through Congress.

The Republican senators who represent Kansas and Missouri, and most of the Republicans who represent the Kansas City area in the House did not respond to a question asking if there was any legislation they would support to address gun violence in the country.

One Missouri Republican, Rep. Eric Burlison, introduced legislation earlier this year to loosen gun laws by repealing the National Firearms Act. Rep. Mark Alford, who represents the eastern Kansas City suburbs, signed on as a co-sponsor.

Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Kansas Republican, supports a bill that would use unspent COVID-19 money to allow schools to strengthen their security measures and legislation to provide more federal funding for programs that focus on mental and behavorial health. He does not support legislation that would restrict guns.

“As a father of four young kids, Rep. LaTurner is hopeful that we can get one or both of these bills across the finish line and signed into law in the near future,” said Mike Howard, LaTurner’s spokesman.

Will Bensur, a spokesman for Sen. Roger Marshall, said after the story published that the Kansas Republican also supports focusing on adding security measures to schools and focusing on mental health, rather than legislation dealing directly with guns.

Last Congress, Democrats and Republicans were able to strike a deal on legislation that largely focused on the mental health aspect of mass shootings, including enhancing mental health background checks on people under 21 who try to buy a weapon and providing financial support for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, a provision pushed by former Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who retired from Congress in January.

None of House Republicans from Missouri or Kansas supported the legislation. Blunt was the only senator from the Kansas City region to offer his support.

In a February poll by St. Louis University and YouGov, only 39 percent of Missourians supported the ban of semi-automatic weapons and the same amount supported a ban of magazine clips for semi-automatic weapons. There’s particularly low enthusiasm for the ideas from Republicans, among whom 20 percent supported banning semi-automatic weapons and 18 percent supported banning magazine clips for the weapons.

But when it came to other policy areas, like background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase a weapon and red flag laws, there was bipartisan support among Missourians — 69 percent of Missourians supported mental health background checks, 79 percent supported criminal background checks, 69 percent supported raising the age limit to 21, 60 percent supported a 72 hour waiting period before obtaining a gun and 60 percent supported a red flag law.

Jean-Pierre said that Biden has signed a number of executive orders attempting to address gun violence but that he’s mostly attempting to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to urge for change.

Other Democrats have followed suit, despite a Congress where it is notoriously difficult to pass substantial gun legislation.

“Rep. Davids believes that protecting our communities from the threat of gun violence should not be a partisan issue,” said Zac Donley, Davids’ spokesman. “That’s why she voted with Republicans last year to protect Kansas children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of gun violence across the country. She continues to support common sense gun safety measures, like universal background checks and closing loopholes in gun purchases.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, has repeatedly called for Congress to pass legislation to address gun violence. For more than a year, Cleaver has walked out of the House every time someone offers a prayer for victims of a shooting, saying he believes it is hypocritical for Congress to pray when they are not taking action.

“Moses was able to lead his people across the Red Sea in the most perilous of situations, so I will never say that miracles are impossible,” Cleaver said Tuesday, after the story published. “But it might take an act from God to provide a path forward during the 118th Congress.”

©2023 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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