• Michael McAuliff

Republicans Likely To Block All New Gun Bills; Blame Mental Illness For Slaughters

Freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the former college football coach from Alabama, insisted to reporters for the last two days that the problem with gun violence isn't guns, it's increasing mental illness, even attention deficit disorder among kids, that's to blame..


Tuberville was echoing many of his colleagues in signaling they will not back any gun control legislation, but he was especially blunt.


"I've seen it all my years of coaching and being in teaching, and the problems we're having with youth coming up," Tuberville said Tuesday evening when reporters approached after votes on the floor.


Asked whether he'd work with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to at least find modest solutions, Tuberville suggested he'd talk with anyone, but didn't think gun laws were the answer.


"It's a people problem. It's not a gun problem. You can't do away with all the guns... We have to start treating people,"Tuberville said. "These people that say the guns are the problem -- I feel sorry for them. I really do."


"They haven't been in the school system like I've seen, and seen how kids have changed over the years with the drugs they're having to take, attention deficit, you know, just to focus on what they're doing. It's just mind-boggling to me how we've let this happen," Tuberville said.


Very few Republican senators were willing on Wednesday to even suggest they might support specific legislation, though most brought up mental illness as the problem that needs to be addressed, or suggested schools should be "hardened."


Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis Lummis told reporters she'd like to repurpose COVID aid to fortify schools. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) even took to the Senate floor seeking unanimous consent for a bill that would help schools shore up defenses. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blocked that request, saying Johnson could offer it as an amendment to the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act due for a vote on Thursday -- if Republicans don't block it.


Plus, Schumer said, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, was already hardened, in that the gunman evaded three police officers who where there.


Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Republicans might be enticed onto a background checks bill, since some had favored the idea before. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Republicans should look at her state's yellow flag law.


But things like enhanced background checks or red flag laws meant to stop the mentally ill from getting guns were a bridge too far, Lummis said. And North Dakota GOP Sen. Kevin Kramer said his voters would not support gun control at all.


"Most would -- not just Republican voters, it wouldn't even be just Republicans -- they would probably throw me out of office," Kramer said.


There were not 10 Republicans expressing support for anything on Capitol Hill Wednesday. It would take 10 Republicans to break a filibuster to pass anything, and two Democrats -- West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema -- both reiterated Wednesday that they oppose ending the filibuster to pass gun laws.


And most GOP senators were like Tuberville, expressing a desire to address mental health, but not proposing any concrete actions in that direction.


Tuberville was specifically asked if he had any bills in mind, and at first dodged.


"Well, first of all, I'm 67 years old, and there's not a mental health plan in this country that's ever been implemented," he said. "There's parts and pieces that's spread around. We overlook it. We overlook it."


Asked specifically, "Do you have a piece of legislation?" Tuberville answered, "I do not.


Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has been leading much of the Democrats' efforts trying to find 10 Republicans, ripped the idea that addressing mental health problems would do much of anything to reduce gun violence.


"Guns flow in this country like water. And that's why we have mass shooting after mass shooting," Murphy told reporters. "Spare me the bullshit about mental illness.


"We don't have any more mental illness than any other country in the world... We're not an outlier on mental illness. We're an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their hands on firearms," Murphy said. "That's what makes America different."


Lacking any Republican support, Schumer, on the Senate floor addressing Johnson, implored Republicans to let debate start on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act that is due for a vote Thursday. Then, he said, they and Democrats could work on gun-related amendments. Republicans, however, were expected to filibuster that bill, although it had been a bipartisan bill when it was first proposed during the Trump administration.


Despite the horror that every lawmaker professed at the slaughter in Uvalde, there seemed little chance of legislation coming up until after Congress's Memorial Day break.