Unless you’ve been living under a rock or securely in your “COVID cave,”, you’ve probably heard that the push for new federal gun control laws is well and truly on. Like other recent controversial measures, they’re currently sailing through the House of Representatives, but are going to run into one big roadblock that may keep them from becoming law: a filibuster in the Senate.
A Quick Review: How Bills Become Laws
For those who are unfamiliar with the legislative process, let’s set the Wayback Machine for the early 1970s and take a quick look at the way federal laws are made.
In the House, laws pass with a simple majority vote, but in the Senate, it’s more complicated. If a senator or group of senators want to kill a bill, they can speak against the bill endlessly (this is called a filibuster), and it takes 60 votes to end the filibuster and bring the bill up for a vote.
There are some exceptions: The recent pork-laden “Covid relief” bill passed the Senate on a slim 50-49 vote using a special set of rules for budget reconciliation that only requires a simple majority. Democrats have been threatening to kill the allegedly white supremacist filibuster entirely, but they’ve run into a roadblock.
Why They Need Joe Manchin
Even without the filibuster, Democrats have their hands full. With a 50-50 balance of power in the Senate, they need to keep every Dem in line to get something passed. Then the Vice President can act in her role as president of the Senate and cast the tie-breaking vote.
While Democrats display a remarkable degree of party discipline, they’re not a monolith. There are a few who are willing to buck the leadership on certain issues.
That’s where Joe Manchin comes in. As a Democrat from a very red state (Trump won West Virginia by 39 percentage points), Manchin has to consider the deplorables back home. At the same time, though, he’s got most of his own party and the media pushing him from the left. Now, he may be the only Democratic in the Senate who doesn’t want to change the rules and kill the filibuster (although Arizona’s Kristen Sinema has made noises, too).
Gun Control Bills In The House
Democrats know that almost no gun control bills will clear the Senate if they have to overcome a filibuster. There just aren’t enough votes to end debate. That hasn’t stopped them from working hard to get gun control through the House, though.
HR 8, the “universal background check” bill, would outlaw private gun sales that don’t go through an FFL. The bill’s authors claim it has a lot of exceptions for lending guns, selling or giving to family members, but that’s not the major problem with the bill. A federal registry would still be illegal if HR 8 passes, but it would create the perfect conditions for a future a registration bill to succeed.
But as with all gun control laws, criminals won’t comply with it, so the law won’t keep them from getting guns any more than the strict laws in Democrat-dominated states do now. The ludicrous claims of 90%+ support for the bill from polls are also dubious, with actual ballot initiatives for background checks in several states achieving less than 50% of the vote.
HR 1446 would close the alleged “Charleston loophole, giving FBI/NICS more time to conduct background checks. At present, if a dealer doesn’t get a denial back within 3 days, they can choose to legally sell the gun to a customer. This prevents the government from instituting a de facto gun ban by dragging their feet and never completing background checks. HR 1446 would allow them to delay a sale up to 10 days, which could allow them to create a national waiting period by claiming they can’t keep up with background check volume.
What Will Manchin Do?
These bills will easily pass the House (HR 8 passed earlier this morning). They will die in the Senate, though, unless the filibuster is ended. To do that, Democrats need Joe Manchin to vote their way. For that reason, groups like Gun Owners of America are calling for people to ask Sen. Manchin to keep his word and not vote to kill the filibuster.
The concern is that after the Sandy Hook shooting, Sen. Manchin, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, pushed for universal background checks, but that effort failed. Manchin’s so far staunch support for the filibuster is likely the only thing that would keep the House’s background check bills — not to mention a possible future assault weapons ban, magazine capacity limit and repeal of the PLCAA — from reaching President Bidenharris’s desk for signature. And that’s a thin reed on which to hang Americans’ gun rights.