Mar 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Gun control groups join fight against filibuster

A police officer is seen saluting the hearse carrying the body of slain Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley.
A hearse carries the body of Police Officer Eric Talley, killed in the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Chet Strange/Getty Images

Gun control groups are joining the progressive fight to end the filibuster as the Senate voting rule threatens their goal of passing comprehensive gun reform.

Why it matters: The House recently passed two gun bills, but neither stand a chance of getting the 60 votes needed in the 50-50 Senate. Senate Democrats have already been talking about getting rid of the filibuster to pass other legislation through a simple 51-vote majority.

  • Two mass shootings in one week have renewed the urgency for gun control among advocacy groups, which are pushing the White House and Congress for immediate action.

What they're saying: "We didn't do all this work in 2020, tell all of our youth activists to get out and vote, to get nothing done," Max Markham, policy director at March for Our Lives, told Axios.

  • He said his group intends to get involved in lobbying efforts to eliminate the filibuster.
  • Greg Jackson, a community organizer who leads the Community Justice Action Fund's national advocacy efforts, said the filibuster is "part of the reason why gun violence has continued to rage forward without the solutions we need."
  • Many gun control activist groups have partnered with larger advocacy projects specifically targeting the elimination of the filibuster. March for Our Lives, Guns Down America, and Brady, for example, are involved in one such group called Fix Our Senate.
  • Brady's vice president of policy Christian Heyne tells Axios' Kadia Goba: "Here's why I see democracy issues like the filibuster as a gun violence prevention issue: We know that the same communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence are the voices who are being marginalized in our democratic systems and structures."

The legislative piece is just one component.

  • March for Our Lives, for example, is encouraging the White House to take immediate action by issuing executive orders, arguing the "clock is really ticking" on reform.

But, but, but: It's possible that placing energy behind the filibuster on gun reform could compromise efforts to make a filibuster exception to pass something like HR. 1, a voting rights bill that's a top Democratic priority.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposes the gun control bills passed by the House and also opposes eliminating the filibuster.
  • Part of his argument is that eliminating it for economic measures could be a precursor for using a straight-majority vote to pass all types of other legislation.
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