Mitch McConnell Signals Support for New Gun Control Bill, Breaking with Party

While many Republicans in Congress have stood firm on the Second Amendment, McConnell and other party leaders are signing on to new progressive proposals.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) has joined a group of over a dozen other Republicans who have come out in support of a progressive gun control bill, aligning himself with Congressional Democrats and breaking with many in his own party.

The new law, titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, was proposed in the wake of the deadly school shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas. The act would implement a number of reforms, including giving funding to encourage states to pass “red flag laws” and enhancing background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and devote millions to mental health and school safety initiatives.

McConnell called the bill, which was originally put forward by senators Chris Murphy (D – CT) and John Cornyn (R – TX), “a step in the right direction.” His support of the measure, along with that of all Senate Democrats and 13 other Republicans, means that the bill will clear the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. It is expected to pass a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

However, McConnell’s support of the bill has been criticized by many rank-and-file Republicans, including Congressman Greg Steube (R – FL 17th District). A strong opponent of the new gun control proposal, Steube angered Democrats at a virtual House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier in June, when he showed weapons which Democrats wanted to ban.

Steube was chided by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D – TX 18th District), who said “I hope that gun is not loaded,” prompting Steube to say, “I’m at my house. I can do whatever I want with my guns.”

In a radio interview earlier this month, Steube criticized Republican leadership, saying, “We shouldn’t be compromising on something as absolute as the Second Amendment.” After a tragedy such as a shooting, Steube said, “people get emotional” and say “we have to do something,” forgetting to consider the big picture and look at important contributing factors such as fatherlessness.

This conflict reveals deep divisions between Republican Party leadership and many of its members, and it is unclear whether McConnell will be able to unify his party and minimize infighting in the leadup to the fall midterms.

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