Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., continues to reserve judgment on supporting a gun and school safety bill that at least 10 of her GOP colleagues are supporting.
Capito congratulated those working on the “framework” of the bill, especially related to provisions addressing mental health issues and school “hardening,” but she is reserving her stand until she sees the final version of the bill.
“I can’t make a definitive statement until I see what the details are,” she said during a virtual press briefing from her office Thursday. “Details will matter here.”
Negotiations are continuing on those details, but she did indicate one concern with is the way “red flag” laws are handled.
A red flag law allows guns to be confiscated from a person deemed a threat to themselves or others, but the bill does not require such laws. It will provide grants so states willing to enact them, with 19 states already having some form of the law in place.
Capito said those mental health challenges should be addressed and people who should not have a gun should not be able to get one.
However, “law-abiding citizens should have full access to Second Amendment rights,” she said.
That is a “due process” concern reflected by other leaders, including Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.Va., and Gov. Jim Justice, as deeming someone not mentally stable enough to have gun must always use an established process that does not unduly infringe on people’s rights.
Capito also indicated she supports some mechanisms to better monitor youth (under 21) purchasing assault weapons, as was the case in the Texas school shooting when the shooter purchased two assault weapons just after he turned 18.
Residents under 21 cannot purchase handguns, per federal law, but they can purchase assault rifles because they fall in the category of a “long rifle,” which are traditionally hunting rifles.
Capito said she is glad to see some “tightening up” of some of the issues in youth (under 21) getting those guns, with background checks including juvenile records before purchasing an assault weapon part of the framework.
The framework in the bill related to this issue, red flag laws and school hardening reads:
“Provides resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others, consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections.
“For buyers under 21 years of age, requires an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.
“Invests in programs to help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students.”
Other provisions in the framework include protections for victims of domestic violence, funding for school-based mental health and supportive services, telehealth investments, penalties for “straw purchasing” (buying a gun for a criminal) and cracking down on criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said last week he is behind the bill, which may go to the Senate floor next week.
On another issue, Capito also criticized Biden for blaming Republicans for interfering with his attempts to ease inflation.
“I don’t know what he is talking about,” she said, but indicated he may be referencing Biden’s initial Build Back Better Bill, which asked for $3.5 trillion in more spending.
“We are happy we blocked that,” she said of GOP opposition, which also included two Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ari.
Capito said the trillions of dollars that had already been pumped into the economy was driving up inflation already and more federal dollars, aimed at many “social” issues, would have made it worse.
The Build Back Better Act that was eventually scaled back to $1.75 trillion. Manchin, who had been trying to negotiate a smaller price tag, pulled his support and since the bill needed all 50 Democratic senators to support it the proposal died.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org