What Mitt Romney says about gun laws in wake of Texas school shooting

Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that background checks and updating background check technology is something that is an appropriate federal responsibility.

Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that background checks and updating background check technology is something that is an appropriate federal responsibility. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

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WASHINGTON — The mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead Tuesday has reignited the debate in Congress over gun laws.

Sen. Mitt Romney weighed in on the issue Wednesday when asked about it at the Capitol.

"Background checks and updating our background check technology is something that I think is an appropriate federal responsibility," he told reporters.

The Utah Republican said he'll review legislation to expand universal background checks prior to gun sales that Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., proposed in 2013 in response to the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Following the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, Manchin said he still supports his proposal with Toomey, but without 60 votes in the Senate, he questioned the practicality of bringing it to the floor for a vote, according to The Hill.

"I'll be looking at Toomey-Manchin and seeing how that would apply and whether or not I could support that or whether there might be some amendments to that that would make it more acceptable," Romney said.

Romney also said red flag laws "make a lot of sense." The law allows police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

"I think states are wise to adopt those," he said. "I think they'd have to be effectively administered at the state level."

Senators in both parties say red flag legislation, which already exists as law in at least 19 states, has the best chance of securing enough bipartisan support to make it to President Joe Biden's desk in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, The Hill reported Wednesday. Efforts to pass a red flag law in Utah have failed.

A number of senators now see red flag legislation as perhaps having a better chance of becoming law than proposals to expand background checks, reforms the House passed in March 2021 but have sat in Senate limbo for more than a year.

After several school shootings in 2018 Romney said states — not the federal government — should establish gun laws and school safety measures. He said then that he did not support new federal gun control legislation, except banning the sale of bump stocks and an updated background check system.

Romney told the Deseret News in 2019 that if states want to ban assault weapons, they should do so.

Biden called for "commonsense" gun law reforms during an event at the White House, saying Wednesday that he's "sick and tired" of what's going on.

"The idea that an 18-year-old can walk into a store and buy weapons of war designed and marketed to kill is, I think, just wrong. It just violates common sense," he said.

The president said the Second Amendment is not absolute.

"When it was passed you couldn't own a cannon. You couldn't own certain kinds of weapons. There's just always been limitations," he said.

"When ... are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?"

The Washington Post reported that 19 current or recent Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Rob Portman, of Ohio, and Joni Ernst, of Iowa, have taken at least $1 million each in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association over their careers, according to data compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2019.

Among the others is Romney, who expressed how "grief overwhelms the soul" in an attack like the one in Texas, and acknowledged on Twitter that his offer of prayers and condolences were "grossly inadequate" and that answers were needed, the Post reported.

Critics and liberals slammed Romney — who was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee and who spoke at the NRA's annual convention that year — for taking more than $13 million in NRA contributions, according to the Brady Campaign.

Romney took no NRA money during his Senate campaign.

"No one owns Sen. Romney's vote, as evidenced by his record of independence in the Senate," said Romney spokeswoman Arielle Mueller.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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