Congressional Republicans have been blocking meaningful House-passed gun legislation for months.
Attorney General William Barr suggested Wednesday that meaningful efforts to curb gun violence had stalled because of the ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
Speaking in Memphis, Tennessee, Barr said that no legislative action was possible and suggested the administration would take its own steps.
"Right now it does not appear that things in Washington are amenable to those kinds of negotiations and compromises," he said. "Unfortunately, our discussions on the legislative aspects of this have been sidetracked because of the impeachment process on the Hill, and so we are going forward with all the operational steps that we can take that do not require legislative action."
Rather than push for new laws, the Trump administration plans to simply try to more fully enforce the ones already on the books. The plan — called Project Guardian — involves encouraging prosecutors to be more diligent about updating background check databases and cracking down on criminals who circumvent background checks by having someone else buy weapons for them.
The National Rifle Association endorsed this approach and has long talked about tougher enforcement of the laws on the books as the best way to prevent gun crimes.
Barr's suggestion that the House impeachment inquiry was somehow blocking meaningful progress on gun reform is dubious at best.
Congressional Republicans have blocked virtually all gun restrictions for decades — and the National Rifle Association has distributed millions to elect and re-elect them in return. It is unsurprising, then, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring any new gun restrictions to the floor and that his caucus did not embrace the plan Barr floated in September. The White House quickly denied that the administration's proposals were even the administration's proposals.
While the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed expanded background checks and hundreds of other bills that have been stymied by McConnell — the self-proclaimed "Grim Reaper" blocking progressive legislation — Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have been blaming their inaction on impeachment.
Trump explicitly vowed in May that he would not keep his promise to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure as long as Congress continued to investigate him.
Trump has also been scrutinized in the past for caving on gun safety pledges in the wake of NRA pressure.
It happened after the Las Vegas shootings in 2017, the Parkland shooting in 2018, and after the El Paso and Dayton shootings this year. In the wake of those summer massacres, Trump pledged to work to enact red-flag laws to temporarily disarm those deemed a threat to themselves of others and "very meaningful background checks" for gun purchasers.
But despite overwhelming public support for legislative action, Trump was more interested in the views of the NRA, which spent more than $30 million to elect him in 2016 and reportedly instructed him to "stop the games" about gun legislation in the wake of those shootings.
Trump and congressional Republicans quickly backed off.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.