Daily Progress: Editorial: Spanberger has right idea to test gun legislation


Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is helping lead a legislative effort to curb gun violence that shows why the Lugar Center for cooperative government just named her one of the most bipartisan members of Congress.

Spanberger, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 7th District, has signed a letter with 20 Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives. It asks for separate votes on individual proposals on gun safety. The move comes as the House decides whether to consider a more comprehensive package of measures in a single up or down vote.

The larger package faces stiff odds of attracting a single Republican vote in the Democratic-run House and almost no chance of passing the Senate, which is split 50-50 and requires 10 Republican votes to end debate and compel a vote on any legislation.

Spanberger’s piece-by-piece approach may be a long shot, but it is worth testing.

Republicans say they care about saving children and other innocent victims of gun violence. Yet the GOP, including Charlottesville and Albemarle Rep. Bob Good and other Republican members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, have shown virtually no interest in trying to control access to deadly weapons.

Republicans remain opposed despite the recent slaughter of 19 fourth graders and two adults in an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex. The killer was an 18-year-old who legally purchased two assault rifles on his 18th birthday, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Spanberger and her colleagues have written a letter to House Democratic leaders suggesting that the only way to attract any Republican support is to debate each measure of the larger gun safety bill by itself and take a vote on it. If there is common ground, they reason, this is the surest way to find Republican support.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons. The first involves the need for action instead of symbolism. This country’s leaders need to make the compromises required to put reform in place if they are serious about saving lives. Those reforms must deal with weapons. They can deal with other issues, such as treating mental illness and red flag laws to temporarily detain people judged to be a danger to others or themselves. But the truth is that neither these, nor any other form of mass murder mitigation, works without measures that keep weapons designed specifically to kill people quickly and en masse from being readily available to anyone with almost no limitations.

So maybe the first step in the individual approach is universal background checks on gun buyers, including those purchasing weapons online and from non-licensed firearms dealers at gun shows. The majority of Americans whom Congress and state legislatures serve want this. So do it.

Then, start debating others steps that are reasonable.

If Republicans want to continue to let 18-year-olds buy hunting rifles, agree to that in exchange for raising the age at which they can buy assault rifles.

Keep moving through policies one-by-one. When the votes are in, Americans can judge the arguments offered by Republicans and Democrats. They will be able to decide for themselves which proposals serve them best.

Set a priority list that allows the first votes on things that have space for compromise and agreement. Once an agreement or two emerges, move on to another policy. At the point where politicians deadlock, set a time frame and a standard to measure the effectiveness of what has already been agreed to. If it didn’t help, continue the debate.

The only way the approach described by Spanberger and her colleagues fails is if Republicans refuse to make any concessions. If that is the case, then the president was right last week when he said addressing gun violence might need to become a deciding issue in how Americans vote.

Those who think they can simultaneously claim to be pro-life and pro-gun believe only in hypocrisy. Those who want no more restrictions on who gets to buy people killers, like the weapon used in Uvalde, lie when they claim to be tough on crime.

Attempts at bipartisanship like Abigail Spanberger’s expose our choices on the gun violence that makes us a global disgrace. If we choose to let the carnage continue unabated, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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