Sen. Patty Murray wants to ban the AR-15. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers doesn't. And Maria Cantwell and Lisa Brown?
In the wake of the Parkland mass shooting, one of the most seemingly intractable issues in American politics seems to have been knocked loose. The asymmetric passion around gun rights — where Republicans are terrified of being primaried by gun-rights Republicans while conservative Democrats refuse to support gun control measures — has shifted. For once, the passion is on the side of those calling for restrictions, and it's the gun-rights crowd put on the defensive.
Democrats are taking more risks, calling for more gun control. Republicans are starting to publicly endorse modest measures restricting weapons.
Yesterday, Trump — who is his own mercurial creature — called for a broader array of gun control measures than even many Democrats have been comfortable with, calling for not only stronger background checks but for taking the guns "early" of people who may present a danger before going to court.
So while reporting on the story about how our Congressional representatives are handling the opioid crisis
, we also asked them exactly how we should fix gun violence. Here's what they said:
DEMOCRATIC SEN. PATTY MURRAY
"I think things are changing, and I think the voices of these young people who are saying, 'Wait, it is your job as adults, America, to make sure you are safe at schools' is the change that we need," Sen. Patty Murray says.
We asked Murray what would be the one piece of legislation she would pass if she could to prevent gun violence.
"That's not an easy one-thing answer," Murray says. "I think it has to be multipronged."
First of all, she says, Congress should pass a bill requiring comprehensive federal background checks.
"I think that's absolutely critical. On all sales, not just from gun stores, but from gun shows, internet sales, all of that. So we make sure from someone who should not have a gun doesn't get access to it," Murray says. "Whether they're a terrorist or whether they have mental health issues that make them violent, those kinds of things, we should be able to check ahead of time. That's clear."
Additionally, she says, we should be able to ban high-capacity magazines.
"And I'm hopeful that we can talk more about that," Murray says.
She also says one factor, in particular, has been overlooked. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been are restricted from doing research on gun violence.
"If we don't know why and how gun violence begins, it's very hard to dictate how we stop it," Murray says. "We have
to take that ban off and we've got to do the research so we know the right answers that we go after."
It's a bit more nuanced than a ban, as Murray pointed out recently in a letter to Secretary Alex Azar at the Department of Health and Human Services. In 1996, Congress passed a bill prohibiting the CDC of conducting research “to promote or advocate gun control.”
"It does not prohibit objective, evidence-based research," Murray wrote. "Nonetheless, public health research into gun violence remains woefully inadequate."
But would she be willing to ban AR-15s and other AR-15 style-rifles.
"Of course I would, yes," she says.
And all semi-automatic rifles? She dodges a bit, but emphasizes that she'd "voted to ban assault weapons in the past," Murray says.
Most recently, Murray cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, which would have banned expanded magazines, bump stocks
the "sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons
." It allowed current owners of the weapons to keep their weapons.
I later followed up with her staff, trying to clarify whether she supported banning ALL semi-automatic rifles.
"The short answer is no," writes Murray press secretary Kerry Arndt. "Sen. Murray is concerned with the deadliest semiautomatics that are really intended for war."
DEMOCRATIC SEN. MARIA CANTWELL
After a press conference last week, a KHQ reporter asked Sen. Cantwell about whether there needed to be firearm restrictions related to mental health issues.
"I definitely believe that anyone who is on the no-fly list shouldn't be getting a gun," Cantwell said. "We need to do something about the bump stocks,
because they get this power we don't want to see with these weapons. We need to raise the age to 21. And, yes, we need to have
more information and data
people that we are concerned with who have made threats."
A KHQ reporter pressed her on whether raising the age to 21 made sense when people can go to war at 18.
"Our other handgun laws require 21, " Cantwell responded. "[With] these kinds of weapons that can do so much damage in a short period of time, I think this is a prudent thing to do."
The Inlander asked
whether she'd support banning the AR-15 and similar weapons. Cantwell didn't leap at the chance to endorse the idea.
"I think what we need to do is take the good success that Washington state has [had] on both closing the background check loophole and dealing with the mental health loophole, and get those implemented at the federal level," Cantwell says. "We have been able to prevent a lot of people in this state from getting guns when they shouldn't have them. We need to convince our colleagues that this is a necessary step on the federal level."
Cantwell suggested that she wanted to focus on more feasible gun-control steps, like the bump stock ban.
"It's been so frustrating when we have such key people involved," Cantwell says. "It's been so frustrating to see these school shootings and not be able to get this over the goal line."
REPUBLICAN REP. CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS
The congresswoman, who generally holds views synonymous with other Republican leaders, and who received an A rating from the NRA in 2012
, named several gun-control reforms she supported.
For example, she says she's supported regulating bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting.
"That was recent technology — you could put it on a gun and basically make it an automatic weapon," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. "I believe we should be taking steps to outlaw bump stocks. And I'll support the legislation to do that."
She notes that the House passed legislation last year to improve the federal background check system, to improve coordination between the local, state and federal levels.
"We've got to make sure that works," McMorris Rodgers says. "There was a breakdown in the system."
Asked about if she supports restricting gun ownership because of mental illness, she says she's been "looking at if there's a gun violence restraining order" worth adding to the federal background check system.
But she doesn't support banning the AR-15. She doesn't support banning expanded magazines.
And while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has supported raising the age to own a rifle, McMorris Rodgers declines to join him
"Right now I am not supported of raising the age," McMorris Rodgers says. "My initial response to this question: Young people are joining the military at age 18. As long as they are law-abiding citizens, I don't think we should be infringing upon their right."
(Trump suggested that one reason some in the GOP won't support that idea is because they're
"afraid of the NRA
She also, however, was reticent to voice support for Trump's proposal to arm teachers or allow certain teachers to carry guns.
"I'm looking at it," she says. "I certainly believe that we need to look very closely at how we can keep our children and our schools safe. And I have met with local people in Spokane that are dedicated to this effort."
Ultimately, she says, she's bringing a group together to look at how to improve school safety,
and says she's working with colleagues in the House to increase funding for school security.
"I don't think we should be afraid to have the conversation ... We need to look at what's going on in our schools," McMorris Rodgers says. "What's causing this kind of violent action. And conservatives and liberals [need to] join to figure out what steps need to take place."
CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE LISA BROWN
Rep. McMorris Rodgers' election opponent, former WSU-Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown, may have a rare chance to topple a Republican in conservative Eastern Washington.
Brown condemns the way that Congress has deferred on the issue of gun violence, where politicians "express condolences
" and then don't do anything to address the problem.
Instead, Brown argues, it's time to find solutions.
Brown supports the Washington state's legislature's attempt to ban bump stocks
. She believes that high-capacity magazines have contributed to greater fatalities in some cases.
She wants to close the loopholes in the existing background check system. She believes that the CDC should immediately be given the green light to research gun violence. She'd support raising the age for gun ownership to 21.
And no, she doesn't think putting more guns in the hands of teachers is a good solution.
"I don't think that's where our resources should go," Brown says. "I don't think it makes our classroom safer."
Her answer on whether she'd ban AR-15s, however, is a marked departure from the confident absolutely-ban-'em answer of Sen. Murray. She does not name a version of an AR-15 ban she would support.
"Because the previous ban expired in 2004, there are a lot of these AR-15-type firearms out there already," Brown says. "When you say a 'ban,' that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Whether it's a ban on sales or a ban on manufacture
or a ban on use
, etcetera. 'Ban' is not necessarily clear enough to what the rules or regulations should be."
Instead, she says Congress should form a bipartisan commission to look for solutions., bringing together stakeholders to debate the benefits of drawbacks of gun control legislation
"I'm not going to prejudge where that would lead," Brown says. "I don't come into my candidacy for Congress with a 10-point plan. I'm traveling throughout the district and listening to what people have to say."