Steve Scalise Sticking to GOP Script, Says It's About 'Democrats Wanting to Take Away Our Guns'

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who survived a shooting at a practice for a congressional baseball game in 2017, criticized ongoing Senate negotiations over stricter gun laws on Sunday morning.

“We need to focus more on stopping things before they happen,” Scalise, the House’s second-ranking Republican, said on Fox News Sunday. “It immediately becomes about Democrats wanting to take away guns.”

A bipartisan group of senators have developed a framework for a gun reform bill in the wake of last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. It includes measures Republicans typically favor, such as funding for mental health services and school security, and ones Democrats have repeatedly called for, such as expanded background checks and red flag laws, which allow authorities to take firearms away from those who deemed a threat to themselves or others.

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Scalise took issue with the Democrats’ favored positions. “Under the guise of ‘red flag,’ they take away due process,” Scalise protested. Fox’s John Roberts pushed back, noting that such a law would have prevented the gunman in the Buffalo massacre from obtaining the weapon he used to kill 10 people. Scalise didn’t directly respond. “Well, again, due process is a constitutional right,” Scalise said.

Scalise instead urged lawmakers to take up policies such as “hardening schools” and finding a way “help kids identify [the signs of a shooting] before it can happen.” He also blamed the “defund the police movement” and other progressive criminal justice reforms, such as the end of cash bail, for encouraging America’s skyrocketing gun sales. “They can’t have faith in their local police department,” Scalise said. (Neither “defund the police” nor the reforms Scalise mentioned are widespread nor linked to an increase in crime.)

Scalise was one of five people shot at a practice for the annual congressional baseball game in June 2017. Scalise suffered life-threatening injuries when the gunman, armed with a legally-purchased rifle and handgun, delivered a bullet that tore through the Republican’s hip. The experience has nonetheless hardened Scalise’s pro-guns position: He reminded Fox viewers on Sunday that police officers armed with handguns ultimately “took down” the shooter who fired at him.

Much of Scalise’s comments follow messaging Republicans have prescribed their party in the wake of mass shootings that have, once again, ignited widespread calls for stricter gun laws. Rolling Stone reported on Saturday the GOP has prepared several strategy memos and communications urging Republican candidates to “change the topic to literally anything else, and let this news cycle run its course.

And yet, for Democrats who have pushed for gun reform since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hope springs eternal. “I’ve never been part of negotiations as serious as these,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN‘s Jake Tapper on the status of the Senate’s talks on Sunday morning. “There are more Republicans at the table talking about changing our gun laws, investing in mental health, than at any time since Sandy Hook.”

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