Billy Long declines to commit support for specific gun control measures in wake of Uvalde

Gun Rights

U.S. Rep. Billy Long said he would “sit down and listen to anybody” on legislation to stop mass shootings, but declined to support any specific gun control measures following the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers.

“No one yet has shown us anything that would have prevented any of these shootings,” southwest Missouri’s congressman told the News-Leader on Tuesday evening after a U.S. Senate forum in Springfield. “Like I said, I think the school boards need to take responsibility for, you know, police your own area, be responsible.”

Democrats and advocates for gun control have renewed calls for gun control measures that have generally earned a majority of public support, such as requiring background checks for private gun sales and instituting “red flag” laws, which allow courts to confiscate guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

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But those proposals remain unpopular among Republicans. Long, who is running in a crowded GOP field for U.S. Senate, said that in the wake of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, he pointed out that “there was no way for those kids to get out” — which he said he still believed was an issue.

“There is nowhere for them to run,” Long said. “I mean, they’re talking about arming teachers and training teachers how to use guns, who knows how that would work out.

“But I guarantee you train a teacher to throw open an emergency, you know, two-by-four or whatever, or steel piece off an emergency door to get kids out and let them run, you know, instead of being in a slaughterhouse.”

Almost all schools in the U.S. now conduct mass shooting drills for students — 94 percent, according to a 2015-16 survey from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Long’s sentiment runs counter to other policy proposals floated by elected Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas’ suggestion that schools have only one point of entry and exit.

Missouri’s U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, also running for Senate, and other lawmakers have proposed “hardening” schools with more armed security and retired or off-duty police. Hartzler told the News-Leader last week she believed most proposed gun control measures “wouldn’t have prevented” the Uvalde shooting and declined to commit support for any specific legislation.

Congress is currently in recess, but a group of bipartisan senators have reportedly met virtually to discuss a path forward on background check legislation that has already passed the House, as well as potential compromise on “red flag” language. Asked if he would support any of the proposals currently on the table, Long demurred and said he wanted to wait before committing to any discussions on the matter.

“We haven’t been back to D.C. since it happened, so I can’t answer your question,” he said.

“As soon as one of these horrific situations happens, people bring it up and they want to go to the guns first. … I never try and comment on this stuff the first few days after it happens, there’s too much false information.”

Long voted against two bills brought to the House floor and passed by the chamber in March 2021: House Resolution 8, which would require background checks through a licensed retailer on private sales, and House Resolution 1446, which would require licensed gun retailers to wait up to 10 days for a completed background check, up from the current three. 

The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund has previously endorsed Long in his run for re-election in Missouri’s 7th district. In its 2016 endorsement, the organization cited its grade “A” rating for his opposition to gun control. Long has received $16,863 in total contributions from the NRA since his first race for the House in 2010 — $14,500 of which was direct support and $2,363 of which was independent support. 

Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at gbacharier@news-leader.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

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