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Trump’s early move on guns: Could he bridge the partisan gap?

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Donald Trump could be the president who pushes Congress to do something about gun control, even if those steps are modest.

Perhaps only a Republican president—and one elected with the full backing of the NRA—would be positioned to take such steps.

But rather than welcoming Trump’s move in their direction, gun control advocates are initially dismissing his efforts as inadequate.

For a quarter century, virtually any effort at regulating the sale of guns has fallen victim to Washington gridlock. Ever since Congress let Bill Clinton’s assault-weapon ban expire in the 1990s, the issue has been seen as politically radioactive, not just by Republicans but by moderate Democrats as well.

Even after the school shooting in Newtown, even with Barack Obama and Joe Biden mounting a sustained push for some gun-control measures, Congress did nothing. There was no way the Republicans were going to give Obama even a minor concession on the issue.

Then came last year’s Las Vegas massacre, and an outcry over the shooter’s use of bump stocks to boost the speed of his attack. But nothing happened.

And yet the Florida school shooting, and the gruesome spectacle of children being gunned down, seems to have brought the issue to a potential tipping point.

When the conservative, pro-Trump New York Post is running such banner headlines as “MR. PRESIDENT, PLEASE ACT” and yesterday’s “HOPE FOR GUN CONTROL”—with a photo of protesting Florida students–it’s clear that the national mood is changing.

Even Pat Robertson, the onetime GOP presidential candidate, said on his “700 Club”: “I am a gun owner. I have hunted. I have shot skeet,” Robertson said. “But for heaven’s sakes, I don’t think that the general population needs to have automatic weapons.”

Trump has ordered the Justice Department to speed up an existing review and issue regulations banning bump stocks. He has also signaled he is open to arguments about tighter background checks and raising the age limit for purchases of such weapons as an AR-15 rifle, the one used in Parkland.

This comes from a president who embraced the Second Amendment during the campaign and said of the group that backed him financially: “To the NRA, I can proudly say I will never, ever let you down.”

Of course, after yesterday’s gut-wrenching session with students, teachers and parents who went through mass shootings, Trump also said that arming people in schools could be part of the solution–an approach favored by the NRA.

A Quinnipiac poll out yesterday said that 97 percent (!) of Americans favor universal background checks for gun purchases. Some 66 percent favor stricter gun laws, and 67 percent favor a ban on assault weapons.

There is a partisan divide, with only 34 percent of Republicans supporting stricter gun laws, but 43 percent back an assault weapons ban.

Washington’s paralysis on these issues speaks to more than the clout of the NRA. Many lawmakers are just afraid of alienating gun owners, who are passionate and highly motivated voters.

Now it’s true the NRA doesn’t oppose some of these measures, such as regulating bump stocks (though it doesn’t want legislative action on the matter).

But Trump does have a Nixon-goes-to-China opportunity here. He could detoxify the issue for many Republicans, bringing enough along to join with liberal Democrats in passing modest legislation.

It’s just as possible that, like immigration, this issue will become embroiled in partisanship and the moment will pass.

Trump has already remade the Republican Party in his image, drawing considerable criticism from those who don’t like him or his policies. But what if, in the wake of the Florida tragedy, he moved the party toward a more centrist and popular position?

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Sturgeon’s SNP dream suffers blow as new poll shows lead for ‘no’ in IndyRef2 vote

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NICOLA STURGEON’S SNP are still on track to win next month’s elections – but a new poll shows an independence referendum would swing to the ‘No’s.

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'Deluded!' Britons brutally mock Alex Salmond's 'fantasy' bid to scrap pound in Scotland

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ALEX SALMOND has been branded “deluded” and “clueless” after he claimed Scotland should create its own currency if it leaves the UK – despite a warning it could be worth “half or less” what people expect.

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After Chauvin verdict, Senate optimism grows around police reform named for George Floyd

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WASHINGTON – The day after Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd, Republican Sen. Tim Scott expressed renewed optimism about the prospects of Congress passing a police reform bill.

“I’m confident that the issues that I’ve been discussing, as it relates to making progress on police reform are today — they have more traction than they had last year,” Scott, of South Carolina, said Wednesday speaking to reporters in the Capitol.

Sweeping police reform has been viewed as a policy area ripe for bipartisan cooperation since Scott joined the effort in 2015. Democrats have been clamoring for a federal overhaul since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The Republican party’s libertarian wing has fueled it’s willingness to support limits on police.

But like most things in Congress, partisan division has stalled prior efforts and Republicans were chaffed that Senate Democrats blocked their last attempt to consider a reform bill.

The bill now being considered, named the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, passed the House in March, but stalled in the Senate because it lacks the support of at least 10 Republicans to clear the needed 60-vote threshold.

Negotiations have been ongoing between Scott, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who sponsored the House bill, but the group has not reached a compromise or made significant progress.

But Scott says he sees a way to break the impasse.

“I think we are on the verge of wrapping this up in the next week or two depending on how quickly they respond to our suggestions,” Scott told reporters.

Democrats are warning that the verdict can’t be a substitute for legislative action

“We should not mistake the guilty verdict in this case as evidence that the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved, or that the divide between law enforcement and so many of the communities they serve has been bridged, it has not,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

Scott agrees.

“I don’t know that anyone will see the George Floyd verdict, as a transformative moment in our justice system. I think we should see it as a serious step in the right direction,” he said.

The House-passed bill bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants. It also creates a database of police officers who have acted inappropriately in the line of duty. No Republicans in the House supported the bill.

“We must do our job in this chamber, and make sure that we reform policing, which will make life better, not only for citizens, but for the police,” Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said.

Democrats have their own internal politics to navigate, including the risk that any compromise will be seen as too watered down by their base.

“I don’t think there is a path forward,” said Kat Calvin, a lawyer and progressive activist who founded the group Spread The Vote. She fretted that the Democratic Party, “within itself can’t agree on what it wants,” and said Republicans oppose policies “significant enough that it will make police stop killing people.”

She said Scott’s opposition to ending a legal protection known as “qualified immunity” for police officers means any compromise he reaches will be insufficient.

“Having Tim Scott lead these negotiations is not helpful,” she said. “Those of us who are dying — I’m Black in America. Everyone in my family is concerned about this issue.”

Scott, the only Black member of the Senate GOP, became the Republican leader on a police reform bill after the 2015 shooting in North Charleston, S.C., of Walter Scott, a Black man, by former police officer Michael Slager, who pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges. A police reform bill authored by Scott in 2020 was blocked by Democrats.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., thinks that Scott will be able to rally broad support among Republican senators for the deal he negotiates.

“He’s heavy into negotiations,” she said on Wednesday. “He would get broad-based support from the conference.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called police reform legislation “a huge priority.” He is a potential Republican to join Democrats on a compromise.

“The judicial system worked. But a man is dead. So that’s a very high price to pay,” Romney said. “I think the need to, to pass Tim Scott’s proposal with regards to police reform is as great as ever.”

Big policy disagreements remain between the two parties.

One major sticking point is qualified immunity, which protects officers from most civil lawsuits. Democrats want to allow on-duty officers to be sued as a form of accountability. Republicans, who generally support tort reform that makes civil litigation harder, say eliminating qualified immunity would make it impossible for police departments to recruit officers willing to take the financial risk.

Scott says he proposed to Democrats allowing police departments, not individual officers, to be sued.

Another sticking point is the prohibition of chokeholds. Scott’s previous legislation would just study the tactic instead of banning it.

Democrats also want to prohibit police from receiving decommissioned military gear, which Republicans oppose, arguing the items are not all lethal and sometimes necessary for disaster response.

Scott’s legislation received a vote last year when the Senate was controlled by Republicans, but was blocked by Democrats, who voted on party lines to prevent the bill from receiving the needed 60 votes. Now, Democrats control the Congress and the White House but lack the 60 votes needed to pass legislation without Republicans.

Schumer said passage is a priority.

“The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure that George Floyd’s tragic death will not be in vain,” he said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We will not rest until the Senate passes strong legislation to end the systemic bias in law enforcement.”

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