Shotguns and rifles on sale at a West Virginia Walmart in May 2022
Shotguns and rifles on sale at a West Virginia Walmart in May 2022 / Stephen Gutowski

Democrats Deem New Federal Gun Law Insufficient After July 4th Shooting

The attack in Highland Park, Illinois, on Monday prompted Democratic leaders to double down on the idea restrictions included in the recent bipartisan federal gun deal are not enough.

On Monday, a shooter opened fire on an Independence Day parade from a rooftop, leaving six dead and 30 wounded. Democrats at the state and federal levels have responded with renewed calls for new gun restrictions beyond the measures that just became law.

“I recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost thirty years into law, which includes actions that will save lives,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday. “But there is much more work to do, and I’m not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence.”

The new law added more background-check procedures and incentivized states to pass “Red Flag” laws that allow courts to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Biden and Democrats in Congress heralded the law as a victory after it passed, but now many are downplaying its effectiveness after the shooting in Illinois.

“Last month, Congress proved that bipartisan compromises on gun safety are possible,” Senator Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) told Politico. “Today proved that we can’t stop there.”

Duckworth then called for a ban on “assault weapons [and] high-capacity magazines, and so many additional common-sense reforms” during a press conference. Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) also demanded a ban on “assault weapons,” which he said have no “sport or hunting purpose” in an interview with CNN.

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Mass.), who led the negotiations on the new law, said in a video posted to Twitter that the bipartisan effort “is going to save lives.” Still, he noted that “it is only the beginning.”

“We have now broken the back of the gun lobby,” Senator Murphy said. “We now have made possible changes in our gun laws that can keep our communities safer. Today is a reminder that we still have a long road to travel.”

The call for new gun restrictions in the immediate aftermath of the bipartisan agreement underscores concerns raised by gun-rights advocates that the bill would not satisfy gun-control advocates. The rush to pass more aggressive measures may alienate some of the Republicans and more moderate Democrats who supported the deal. They may be unlikely to return to the negotiation table so soon after the most comprehensive law on firearms in decades.

However, there may be more action at the state level. Democratic state leaders are echoing their federal counterparts. They are signaling a desire to ratchet up their gun-control efforts, especially in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned the gun-carry permit regimes in several deep-blue states.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D.) indicated that lawmakers should address the “uniquely American plague of gun violence.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way, yet we allow it,” he said on Twitter. “May the memories of those lost be a blessing — and a call to action.”

Illinois has already received plaudits from gun-control groups for having “some of the strongest gun laws in the country,” including a “Red Flag” law and a gun purchase permitting system. New Jersey has similarly high marks from gun-control groups for its strict rules but is also pursuing new restrictions.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D.) signed seven new gun-control bills into law Tuesday as a response to the Supreme Court ruling. However, he said more is needed in light of the Highland Park shooting.

“This is a huge step forward for commonsense gun safety and for safer communities,” Governor Murphy said Tuesday. “But it cannot be our only or last step.”

As with any potential gun restrictions passed in response to the Highland Park attack, the New Jersey laws will likely face legal scrutiny as the federal courts adapt to the new standard set in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling. The ruling forces legislators at the federal and state level to grapple with greater protections for individual gun rights when pursuing new restrictions.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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