Throughout the impeachment inquiry and trial of President Donald Trump, Republicans argued that the proceedings were interrupting legislative work. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who represents a southwestern part of Pennsylvania, said in December that instead of holding impeachment hearings, Congress should work to lower prescription drug prices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), admonished Democrats for wasting an “entire calendar year.”
This argument was never strong. The impeachment process did not prevent the House and Senate from passing the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal. When the issue is important to President Trump, Congress finds the capacity to walk and chew gum. Now that the impeachment trial is over, so is one of the last excuses for inaction — even on those issues less dear to the president.
Even in this highly polarized political moment, there are issues that both parties should be able to work on together. It might surprise some observers that one of those issues is gun control.
A year ago, the House passed two bills to broaden federal background check requirements to all private sellers and extend the period of time that a background check can take. In the six months between the passage of the bills and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of the impeachment inquiry, neither bill got a single hearing or vote in the Senate. According to McConnell, the bills won’t get a vote in the Senate as long as Trump doesn’t indicate that he would sign them.
You have free articles remaining.
Not all Republicans oppose the legislation, and Pennsylvanians can lead the way. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, from Bucks County, was among a few Republicans who voted for both House bills. Almost all other Republicans fell in line with the National Rifle Association’s position against any gun control measure. Senator Pat Toomey has advocated for a weaker background check bill for years — a bipartisan effort he is ready to revisit and believes the White House could get behind. Still if the Manchin-Toomey bill it would be the most significant piece of gun control in decades.
It is rare in the current political climate to find something a majority of Americans can agree on. Despite the conventional wisdom that gun control is a wedge issue, and despite the NRA’s best efforts to maintain that status, universal background checks are extremely popular.
The vast majority of both parties support universal background checks — 96% of Democrats and 83% of Republicans, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll from September. A 2015 survey by the American Center for Progress found that even 72% of National Rifle Association members support background checks.
Between their popularity and their demonstrated effectiveness, there is no excuse not to enact a universal background check bill. Even if the measure alone is not a panacea to stop the bleeding in cities like Philadelphia with high rates of gun violence, it will prevent some of the violence and lay the foundation for future efforts to ensure that people who intend to use a gun on themselves, or on a member of their community, cannot buy a gun.