WASHINGTON — As the Senate takes up gun control measures favored by President Obama on Wednesday, a group of conservative senators led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley are offering an alternative proposal that they say would be more effective at preventing crimes like the Newtown massacre.
Cruz and Grassley, along with Republican senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dan Coats of Indiana, introduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2013 during a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Cruz said Wednesday “this legislation will do substantially more to stop violent crime” than the other legislation in the Senate.
“This bill today is the result of the Senate working like it should,” the Texas lawmaker said. “It is a result of extended hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee looking at the problems of violent crime, looking at the challenges of prosecution.”
The proposal is scheduled to be voted on along with other amendments to the Senate’s Firearms Bill Wednesday afternoon. Despite a strong push by the Obama administration, backers of an amendment expanding background checks, which was proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, are reportedly struggling to line up the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation.
Cruz and Grassley’s bill is only sponsored by Republicans, but they said they hope to attract Democratic support when it comes to the floor on Wednesday.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the sponsors, the legislation would:
· Improve and reauthorize grants for National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database;
· Require federal courts to submit relevant information to NICS;
· Ensure that relevant mental health records are submitted by states to NICS;
· Condition federal grant money for states on their submission of mental health records to NICS;
· Increase federal prosecution of gun violence by establishing the Nationwide Project Exile Program and establishing a high-level federal taskforce;
· Study the causes of mass shootings;
· Responsibly addresses gun violence by criminalizing straw purchasing of firearms and gun trafficking;
· Protect the Second Amendment rights of veterans;
· Require the Department of Justice to explain to Congress why it has or has not been prosecuting gun cases;
· Place limitations on Fast & Furious-type operations by DOJ;
· Authorize individuals and companies with Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) to utilize the NICS database to for voluntary background checks of employees;
· Authorize FFLs to access the FBI’s National Crime Information Center stolen gun database to ensure that a firearm is not stolen prior to acquisition;
· Reauthorize the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) with amendments;
· Address school safety by reauthorizing the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) “Secure our Schools Program” through 2023.
A copy of the legislation is available here.
Other sponsors of the alternative being pushed by Cruz and Grassley include Republicans John Thune of South Dakota, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas and Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Republican Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, James Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are also sponsoring the bill.
While the Manchin/Toomey bill expands background checks, Cruz complained that the federal government has not prosecuted many of the felons who have illegally tried buying firearms.
“Out of 48,000 felons and fugitives who in a single year tried to illegally purchase firearms, the Justice Department prosecuted just 44 of them,” he said. “In our judgment, that’s unacceptable.”