Schumer: Vote Democrats in Midterms If You Support Gun Control

Schumer: Vote Democrats in Midterms If You Support Gun Control
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference in Washington on Jan. 4, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats will not pursue a doomed test vote on gun control legislation, and instead said that Americans who want heavier gun control should vote for Democrats in November.

Following a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 dead, Democrats are again demanding wide-reaching congressional action on gun control.

But Schumer, who has pushed through a series of doomed bills for issues ranging from election law to abortion to spending bills, says that he will not pursue a similar effort with a gun control bill.

“There are some who want this body to quickly vote on sensible gun safety legislation,” Schumer said in a statement.

“They want to see this body vote quickly so the American people can know which side each senator is on—which side each senator is on. I’m sympathetic to that. And I believe that accountability votes are important. But sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know.

“Americans can make a choice. Americans can reject the Republican guns at all costs doctrine, obeisance to the NRA, not even voting for the most simple, sensitive, positive and popular gun legislation. Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns, with this issue—this issue—at the top of the voters lists. In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now.”

Democrats have for decades unsuccessfully sought wider-reaching federal gun control legislation.

However, every effort they have made to achieve this has been doomed in the Senate, where legislation must overcome a 60-vote filibuster threshold before it can go to the floor for a simple majority floor vote.

Republicans, for their part, have cited the Second Amendment as a prohibition on federal gun laws, and have preferred instead to leave gun regulations up to state and local governments. For any gun control bill to pass, at least 10 Republicans would need to defect from this long-held attitude.

Because the filibuster makes it all but impossible to pass such legislation, some Democrats have demanded that the filibuster be abolished, allowing the majority party to pass legislation with little input from the minority party.

“Enough is enough. We must abolish the filibuster and pass gun safety legislation NOW,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a May 25 tweet. “No one in America needs an AR-15. How many more children, mothers and fathers need to be murdered in cold blood before the Senate has the guts to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA?”
“I’m sickened that we haven’t been able to pass commonsense gun safety laws. We can’t let the NRA or the filibuster stop us from protecting our children,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in another tweet.
“The Senate must consider an exception to the filibuster to curb gun violence,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a tweet.

However, gun control is not the first issue that Democrats have used to push a filibuster carve-out—in 2021, the party tried to use the method to pass expansive election legislation, but the effort was stopped by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have been outspoken in their defense of the Senate rule.

Speaking to reporters on May 24, Manchin reaffirmed his opposition to a filibuster carve-out.

While he said he would do “anything I can” to advance “common sense” gun legislation through the Senate, he said that weakening or abolishing the filibuster is still out of the question.

Sinema, who has long refused to discuss policy positions with the press, has not reaffirmed her opposition to a carve-out, but with Manchin’s opposition, no such change to the filibuster would be possible even if she would support it.

Ultimately, for Democrats to pass gun control legislation they will either need to win a supermajority of the Senate in November—an extremely unlikely outcome in a closely-divided midterm battle—or they will need to garner enough support for a filibuster carve-out; that support, at least for the near future, seems unlikely.