Republicans look to reverse rule based on gun law they backed

Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Republican backers of a once-in-a-generation gun violence bill now lead the charge against one part of the Biden administration’s implementation of the law, a falling out that illustrates the delicacy of trust required to pass legislation on hot-button issues.

A Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval introduced Wednesday in the Senate by John Cornyn, R-Texas, could force the chamber to vote on overturning a rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that would expand the number of gun sellers who would be required to run background checks.

Cornyn had negotiated the 2022 gun violence prevention law that the administration relied on for the ATF rule. Now he has 41 Senate Republicans who back his joint resolution to stop that rule.

“Every time that they ask for bipartisanship, then if you provide bipartisan solutions, then they overreach and undermine any sort of good-faith negotiations that take place,” Cornyn said.

Democrats have touted the rule, and the 2022 law the administration based it on, as a shining example of bipartisanship and a major step toward making background checks on gun purchases universal.

In a floor speech Tuesday marking the anniversary of one of the mass shootings that sparked the law, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the law and implementing rule “shows change is possible when both sides work together even when progress is hard and halting.”


But Cornyn, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and others who helped negotiate the law’s passage said they felt burned by the White House’s decision to push the rule so much further than they expected.

They say the administration took a small change in the language around who can be considered a gun dealer and used it to create a rule that massively expands who qualifies as a gun dealer — and now must comply with federal rules including background checks.

“They basically took a negotiated bill and they changed it and tried to change the law,” Cornyn said.

The 2022 law included sweeping changes to mental health treatment, expanded state grants for school safety, violence prevention and other measures meant to reduce gun violence. The Senate passed the bill 65-33 and the then-Democratic House 234-193 following bipartisan talks after mass shootings in Buffalo; New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla.


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