Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will put forward amendments to a Senate gun bill hammered out between Republicans and Democrats over weeks of closed-door negotiations.
The bill, coming in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead, has received mixed reactions on Capitol Hill.
Some provisions have broad bipartisan support.
For example, the bill would allocate $15 billion to mental healthcare access and increasing school security, a measure that was particularly popular among Republicans. To offset these costs, the bill delays the implementation of a Medicare drug rebate program that proponents say will save the federal government $21 billion.
However, other measures, including measures to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” measures incentivizing states to adopt red-flag laws, and increasing background check requirements, have proven more controversial.
‘Concerned About Constitutional Deficiencies’
Paul excoriated the bill and announced his intention to put forward amendments in a June 22 tweet thread.
“No one wants to see guns in the hands of criminals, and no one wants to see tragedies like we saw recently in Texas,” Paul wrote. “I’m both a law-abiding gun owner, and a parent, and I want our schools and kids safe.
“While we have many laws in place to do that already, there should be things we can agree on as legislators to improve upon this. For example, I support legislation to include juvenile records of violent crimes to be included in background checks.
“Looking at the recent criminal past of anyone is a good idea before assessing gun ownership. However, that idea was paired with many questionable or bad ones in this legislation.
“I am concerned about constitutional deficiencies in many red flag laws,” Paul wrote.
Red flag laws, laws that enable courts to strip people of their constitutional rights to own a gun, have been a rallying cry for Second Amendment advocates for some time. The controversial laws have resulted in thousands of Americans being ordered not to possess guns because of concerns about their mental health.
Often, the accused are not given notification of an accusation or any chance to defend themselves against the charges until after their weapons have been confiscated.
“I cannot support any legislation that funds or encourages laws that allow ex parte gun confiscation without legal representation, or even sometimes without prior notification to the defendant of any accusation at all,” Paul wrote.
He continued: “I cannot support legislation that funds or encourages laws that allow gun confiscation with a standard lower than the constitutional criminal standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ I cannot support legislation that funds or encourages gun confiscation predicated on anonymous accusations.”
Paul also called on other lawmakers to strip a provision of the compromise bill that would bar the use of funds to train and equip school personnel with firearms.
“I … think it unwise to prohibit the appropriated funds from being used for firearms or firearms training for any school personnel,” Paul said. “In fact, we should be doing the opposite, encouraging schools to train and arm proper personnel as desired and needed in their schools.”
“Unfortunately, this legislation was assembled as many are—in secret, absent well placed leaks to journalists,” Paul said, wrapping up the thread. “There doesn’t’ appear to be a willingness or time provided to read, understand, debate or amend this bill.”
“I will try anyway,” Paul concluded. “To this end, I will introduce amendments to correct the constitutional deficiencies of this bill and hope my colleagues and the Senate leadership will do the same.”
50 Democrats, 14 Republicans
On June 21, all 50 Democrats in the upper chamber were joined by 14 Republicans in advancing the bill, setting it up for a final vote later this week. The vote came only an hour or so after the final text of the bill was made public and available to lawmakers.
Paul is not the only lawmaker to criticize the haste to push the bill forward.
In a June 21 tweet, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also blasted the dizzying turnaround time between the release and advancement of the bill.
“Here we are voting to move on a bill negotiated entirely behind closed doors, released only an hour ago, that no one has had time to fully read, that ignores the national crime wave & chips away instead at the fundamental rights of law abiding citizens. NO,” Hawley wrote.
Still, the bill seems all but certain to pass and has at least the 10 Republicans needed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold pledged to support the bill.
Paul, who has often broken with party leadership over civil liberties and constitutional rights issues, has in the past made similar efforts to slow or stall progress on bills that he considers unconstitutional or ill-advised.
However, many of these efforts have floundered in bipartisan votes rejecting Paul’s amendments or proposals, as seems likely to happen with any amendment he offers to the gun bill.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.