May 27, 2022 - Podcasts

Why federal action on guns may be in reach

Could Uvalde be the mass shooting that spurs U.S. lawmakers to action that would prevent massacres like Tuesday's? It's a question many are asking this week, and Axios congressional reporter Alayna Treen says there are a few reasons to think this time might be different.

  • Plus, Blinken’s China warning.

Guests: Axios' Alayna Treene and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning. Welcome to Axios Today. It’s Friday, May 27th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today: the U.S. unveils its latest China strategy. But first our one big thing: why federal action on guns might be more likely this time.

NIALA: Could Uvalde be the mass shooting that spurs US lawmakers to action that would prevent massacres like Tuesdays. It's a question many are asking this week and Axios congressional reporter Alayna Treen says there are a few reasons to think this time might be different. Alayna first of all, there are a lot of people who advocate for gun control who ask, “why aren't there stricter laws.” We heard from Democrats like President Biden and Senator Chris Murphy talking about this earlier in the week.

What is the sense among Democrats and Republicans in Congress right now around this?

ALAYNA TREENE: Well, it's mixed, Niala. I think there's a lot of skepticism, justified skepticism that Congress will be able to get anything done. And they have a bad track record. I mean, especially under President Biden, the perils of a 50-50 Senate have really had a stranglehold on Democrats for a year and a half now. Um, but there are some reasons that this time might be different. Polls have consistently shown now for a few years that the majority of Americans do not believe that gun laws are strong enough in this country. And that's from both sides. As well as the majority of Americans think that universal background checks are needed and they're okay with that. And so it does give a lot of incentive and almost a little more cushion to Republicans who are more uneasy about embracing some of these potential new laws. But some other reasons are, this happened in Republican's backyards. There's this willingness that we haven't seen in a very long time from members on both sides to do something. They're finally talking to each other again. And some of the, behind the scenes influences like from the NRA and others is not as powerful as it once was.

NIALA: But the Senate did recess yesterday and nothing happened.

ALAYNA: I'll actually say the fact that they recessed without having a clear vote on new legislation is more encouraging than if they didn't. Really Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer is giving members breathing room and kind of a last-ditch effort to try and find a compromise. And that wasn't going to happen in 24 hours, in 48 hours. It's going to happen over the next week or so. And a new bipartisan group has formed and met on Thursday to talk about this. Of course, we've heard this time and time again, we've heard this over the years when mass shootings have happened, but there is this potential sense of maybe this is the time that the dam finally breaks. This is children again, it really does make the issue feel more personal and more urgent. I don't want to be overly optimistic. Probably majority of members are skeptical that they'll actually be able to get something done just because of the massive divide in Congress and in the Senate of, of where lawmakers are and you need at least 10 Republicans to, to be on board in order to make this happen. But there is a sense of optimism. And that I honestly do think is, is a big jump from where I think a lot of people were on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, as well as Wednesday morning. People are talking to each other again.

So we'll see. I'd say one fear that a lot of people have is losing momentum. We've seen this happen in the aftermath of any sort of event where Congress needs to act. But Schumer said he is not planning to let this extend for several weeks. He wants to be able to act immediately when they return from their recess on June 6. And so there's hope that over the next few days that they can really come together and find consensus.

NIALA: Axios’ congressional reporter Alayna Treene joining us from Capitol hill. Thanks Alayna.

In a moment, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s warning about China’s power.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Even as the war rages on between Russia and Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday, China posed the most consequential global threat.

ANTHONY BLINKEN: China's the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly the economic diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.

NIALA: Secretary Blinken's long-awaited speech on the Biden administration’s China strategy came just as President Biden returned from his first presidential trip to Asia. Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is here with the big takeaways from all of this. So Secretary Blinken said plainly the US does not want a cold war or any kind of conflict with China. So what does the US want?

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN: Well in the speech yesterday, Blinken really emphasized diplomacy. He said repeatedly that the US wants to work with allies and partners to uphold the international rules-based order. And he, he put that at the front end of his speech and only later in this speech did he really start talking about the challenge that Beijing is placing on the international order. So he wanted to front end his talk with the goal that the US has, the larger goal, which is to uphold how it views, what it views as a values-based order, as opposed to simply holding China down.

NIALA: Bethany, there were things we didn't learn in this speech, like how the US intends to handle disputes over trade. What do we still need answers on here?

BETHANY: There are several unresolved issues remaining from the Trump-era trade war with China, including billions of dollars of tariffs and China’s continued unfulfilled commitments that it made under the phase one trade deal. While the Biden administration officials have been debating what to do, we haven't seen action in that so far.

NIALA: President Biden earlier in the week on his trip to Asia suggested the US would defend Taiwan, militarily if China were to invade. Then that statement got walked back. Why does this matter?

BETHANY: Well, that's the third time in recent months that president Biden has said something along those lines in public, and then later administration officials have walked it back. That matters because the US has not signed a defense treaty with Taiwan. The US has not made that commitment and to do so, would be a massive step on the international stage. And China would view that as a very big provocation. So it certainly moves the needle, you know, in the minds of China's leaders to suggest that we most definitely would defend Taiwan.

NIALA: Bethany, this week, multiple media outlets published a new trove of data that includes images and files on Uyghur Muslims from inside Chinese detention centers. It's pretty brutal. Do we think this would bring other nations closer to the US position on China, which has been a very strong line the US has drawn.

BETHANY: I think that the answer to that is yes. And we've already seen evidence of that because, this week at Davos, the German chancellor publicly criticized China's human rights record and Xinjiang. And that's a remarkable statement from the German chancellor who has tended to withhold criticism from China publicly, at least, and also for it to happen at Davos, which is not known as a forum in which heads of state and government tend to air human rights criticism. What the world has really lacked, in this genocide is images. And that's because of China's, tight state control of information in the region. Now we have you know, the images, the human faces that we have lacked. Public photos from inside the camps of security drills. So everyone can see the torture devices,and the, you know, the heavily militarized nature, of those camps. It's a, it's an extremely powerful and crucial set of information.

NIALA: Anthony Allen-Ebrahimian is Axios’ China reporter. Thanks, Bethany.

BETHANY: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: One final thing before we end this week. We now know the identities of the 21 victims murdered Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. These are their names:

Uziyah Garcia, Jose Flores, Amerie Garza, Xavier Lopez, Nevaeh Bravo, Alithia Ramirez, Tess Mata, Lexi Rubio, Layla Salazar, Makenna Elrod, Jayce Luevanos, Jailah Silguero, Ellie Garcia, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Annabell Rodriguez, Jackie Cazares, Maite Rodriguez, Rogelio Torres, Miranda Mathis, Eva Mireles, Irma Garcia,

And that’s all for us – Axios Today this week was produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our Supervising Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ Editor In Chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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