Making insensitive remarks about gun laws isn’t a good look.
But that’s exactly what North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer did on Tuesday when asked about red flag measures, which are designed to help keep guns out of the hands of people identified as an immediate risk to themselves or others. The legislation was spurred by the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month.
Here’s what Cramer said (bold is mine):
“We aren’t going to pass a federal red flag law, and we shouldn’t. So why would we incentivize states to do something that we think is a bad idea? There is some confusion about what it actually does and that is what they are trying to clarify. … I think we are more interested in red waves than we are in red flags quite honestly as Republicans, and we have a good opportunity to do that.”
Yup. That’s what Cramer really said, which boils down to this:
1) Republicans are more focused on winning back majorities in the House and Senate this fall than passing gun legislation.
2) He believes passing measures like red flag laws are bad politics for Republicans.
Cramer’s comment does add a pinch of cynicism to the chances that a compromise, which includes a framework to help the states without red flag laws to create them, will ultimately be found in the Senate.
Over the weekend, a bipartisan group that included 10 Republican senators announced they had reached a limited deal on gun control. (The actual text of the legislation is still being written.) If passed, it would amount to the first major gun control measure to pass Congress since the assault weapons ban in 1994.
That looks like a bigger “if” than it did even a few days ago. “I’m starting to get a little concerned, though, that there are a couple of issues that need to be settled before we can reach an agreement,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is leading the negotiations for Republicans, told CNN’s Manu Raju on Wednesday.
Those issues, according to Cornyn, include red flag laws. “One of the issues has to do is whether the funds that we will vote for will be available to states that don’t have red flag laws, but do have crisis intervention programs and things like mental health courts, veterans courts, assisted outpatient treatment programs,” he told Raju. “I just don’t think anything that funds 19 states for their programs but ignores other states that have chosen not to have a red flag law but rather have other ways to address the same problem is going to fly.”
Republicans’ issues with how the red flag portion of the legislation is written fly directly in the face of overwhelming public support for just such measures. A CBS News poll from earlier this month found that 7 in 10 Americans support a federal red flag law.
The thing about Cramer’s remark is that there is some truth there. Republicans know that the midterm elections are shaping up to be a very good for them, and they don’t want to do anything to cross their political base.
Odds still favor some sort of gun deal in the Senate, but it looks like less of a certainty today than it did 72 hours ago.