In the past month, Americans saw three mass shootings in which seven or more people were killed. And all told, some 53 people died in mass shootings in the United States in August, according to The New York Times. (There are a variety of definitions for what qualifies as a mass shooting — we dive into that more in this story.)
The shootings have sparked renewed attention on the issue of gun violence, and on what legislative proposals actually address.
Here is a brief look at four prominent ideas that have been floated in the past week and could potentially come before Congress in coming weeks, including what is known about President Donald Trump’s position, as congressional leaders indicate his opinion could be pivotal in putting a plan in action.
Red flag laws
Ideas: “Red flag” laws, also known as “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” allow law enforcement officials to temporarily remove a firearm or block access to one from an individual who is giving them, or others, reason to believe they may use the weapons to harm other people. A number of leaders in Congress want to provide federal funding and other incentives to expand and encourage these laws in states, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. House Democrats are also working on one version of this next week (including in the House Judiciary Committee).
Recent news: A study released last month found that red flag laws in California had led to the disarming of 21 people who had made threats about possible mass or public shootings.
Where Trump stands: He’s indicated he generally supports this concept, which is one reason it’s seen as the most likely choice if Congress votes on any gun legislation this fall.
Ideas: Proposals in this area generally expand required background checks to include gun shows, internet and private sales. “Universal” background check bills, including the House-passed “Bipartisan Background Checks” Act, would extend those checks to nearly all gun sales, except to close family members. Other versions, like the Manchin-Toomey proposal written by two U.S. senators, would also exempt sales to friends.
Recent news: The Associated Press, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, reported Tuesday that the gun used in Odessa, Texas, was purchased in a private sale, where no background check was required, by a man who previously had failed a background check.
Where Trump stands: He’s been both warm and cool to changing background check laws. In his most recent statement on the idea on Sunday, he expressed skepticism that expanding background checks would make a difference in shootings.
High-capacity magazine and semi-automatic assault weapon bans
Ideas: These proposals are aimed at limiting or blocking sales of firearms and ammunition magazines that are capable of killing large numbers of people quickly. Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to start work next week on a bill to ban high-capacity magazines.
Recent news: The gun used in Odessa, Texas, was a semi-automatic, or “AR” style weapon. In Dayton, Ohio, the shooter used an AR-15 pistol, with a magazine capable of holding 100 bullets. Finally, in El Paso, the weapon was an AK-47 or similar rifle.
Where Trump stands: He’s said he does not think there is a “political appetite” for bans on assault-style guns.
Mandatory buy-back of semi-automatic assault weapons
Ideas: Following the shooting in El Paso, Texas, the area’s former congressman and current presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced his proposal for a mandatory federal buy-back of assault-style guns. If owners of those weapons did not turn them in, O’Rourke would fine them. Former presidential candidate and California Rep. Eric Swalwell raised the idea more than a year ago.
Recent news: As we mentioned above, semi-automatic weapons have been used in many of the nation’s deadliest shootings. At the same time, conservatives have pointed out that bans or buy-backs raise difficult issues of how you define these weapons. They argue limits would likely block many of the most common hunting and sporting guns.
Where Trump stands: Also as above, Trump has voiced hesitancy to ban future sales of these weapons, indicating he may be even less inclined to support a mandatory government taking of those currently owned. On the campaign trail, Trump has repeatedly criticized Democrats as “wanting to take guns” away from Americans.