Democrats Warn That Federal ‘Red Flag’ Law Would Not Be Enough

WASHINGTON — Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, put the brakes on Republicans’ quick embrace of “red flag” laws as a response to last weekend’s gun violence, saying on Wednesday that any gun-related legislation moving through the Senate must be accompanied by a House bill requiring background checks on all gun purchasers.

Red flag laws allow the authorities to obtain a special type of protective order — known as an extreme risk protection order, or E.R.P.O. — to remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Republicans, including President Trump, are coalescing around the concept, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is drafting a bill to develop a federal grant program to help states pass and carry out such laws.

“We Democrats are not going to settle for half measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “Democrats in the Senate will seek to require that any E.R.P.O. bill that comes to the floor is accompanied by a vote on the House-passed universal background checks legislation.”

Mr. Trump, on his way to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, where back-to-back massacres over the weekend left 31 people dead, told reporters he was open to expanding background checks for gun purchases — a surprising development, given that the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun lobby, and many Republicans are vehemently opposed.

But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has blocked consideration of the House bills. Instead, Mr. McConnell has told three top committee chairmen, including Mr. Graham, to “reflect on the subjects the president raised” in his speech from the White House on Monday and engage in “bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our communities while not infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, told a local television station in Tampa that he would “be there right away” if Senate leaders called lawmakers back from their August recess to vote on a red flag bill.

Gun control legislation is one of the most divisive issues in Washington, and it has been thrust to the fore, yet again, by the Dayton and El Paso shootings. Democrats’ tactics are not entirely clear; by saying Democrats will “seek to require” that any Senate legislation is accompanied by the House background checks bills, Mr. Schumer stopped short of threatening to employ a filibuster to block stand-alone red flag legislation.

“The notion that passing a tepid version of an Extreme Risk Protection Order (E.R.P.O.) bill — alone — is close to getting the job done in addressing rampant gun violence in the U.S. is wrong and would be an ineffective cop-out,” he said in his statement, adding that even the strongest red flag legislation “won’t be fully effective without strong universal background checks,” including for those buying firearms at gun shows and over the internet.

Virtually the entire House Democratic Caucus sent Mr. McConnell a letter on Wednesday, demanding that he take up two House-passed bills. One would expand criminal background checks to would-be gun buyers on the internet and at gun shows, and another would lengthen the waiting period for gun buyers flagged by the instant background check system to allow more time for the F.B.I. to investigate.

“This inaction must stop,” the letter said.

The political landscape around gun legislation in Washington may be shifting. Two new Democratic members of Congress — Representatives Lucy McBath of Georgia, whose son was fatally shot in 2012, and Jason Crow of Colorado — both won Republican-held seats after running on a promise to address gun violence. And many Republicans sound rattled after the weekend killings, amid public outcry over too many mass shootings that prompt “thoughts and prayers” but no action from Washington.

At the same time, the N.R.A., mired in internal turmoil, is growing weaker. And the gun rights organization, which has fought red flag laws in the states for years, also appears to be opening the door — at least a crack. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, its spokeswoman, Catherine Mortensen, said that any such orders “at a minimum must include strong due process protections, require treatment and include penalties against those who make frivolous claims.”

As a result, the concept of red flag laws is gaining traction among Republicans in the Capitol. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, told his hometown newspaper, The Argus Leader, that he was “confident Congress will be able to find common ground on the so-called red flag issue.”

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