Democrats Try to Pressure Senate Republicans on Gun Control
WASHINGTON—Democrats sought to pressure President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans on Aug. 13 to support an aggressive background check legislation.
Democrats in the House of Representatives held a news conference with relatives and friends of mass shooting victims to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the upper chamber back from an August recess for a vote on gun control legislation that was approved by the House in February.
The Democrats’ push on gun control comes after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Democrats in Congress and those vying for their party’s presidential nomination are making gun control a key plank in their 2020 election contests.
Gun control measures generally face opposition from defenders of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Democrats are currently pressing for Senate action on legislation that would expand background checks on buyers who obtain guns through private sales, part of which are now exempt. The bill would also require background checks for loans and gifts of guns between people who are not close relatives.
“Is it the solution to all this violence? It is not … it is a significant and important step to take in the face of this violence,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters.
“Not to act is a refusal to meet our responsibilities to the American people,” he added.
The National Rifle Association denounced the bill, saying it would criminalize innocent actions between law-abiding Americans and “make it harder for good people to defend themselves and their families.”
“Criminals, on the other hand, will continue to get their firearms the way they always have—through the black market, theft, and straw purchases,” said Chris Cox, NRA executive director, in a Feb. 27 statement. “Forcing more government paperwork and additional fees on good people trying to exercise a constitutional right will do nothing to make Americans safer.”
Hoyer said the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over gun control, will return to Washington early to consider yet another legislation that would make it easier for states to deny legal gun ownership to people deemed a threat to themselves or others, ban some semi-automatic rifles, and ban higher-capacity magazines. A committee aide said a final decision to return has not been made.
McConnell told a radio interviewer on Aug. 8 that calling the Senate back into session early would only lead to political posturing. Instead, he has instructed the chairs of three Senate committees to work on legislation that can be debated when lawmakers return from their six-week recess on Sept. 9.
Legislation sought by McConnell would need to garner enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Trump, who said he would veto the House legislation.
Trump has voiced support for some form of background check expansion, though in an address on the mass shootings, he focused on mental illness, the internet, and video games as potential causes.
On Aug. 13, Trump said he is convinced that McConnell wants to toughen background checks.
“He wants to do background checks. I do, too, and I think a lot of Republicans do,” the president told reporters in New Jersey.
“I don’t know frankly that the Democrats will get us there. … We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
The Senate could consider a more modest background checks legislation that would exempt all gun transfers, including sales between close family members, from background checks. The House version exempts only loans and gifts between close relatives.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), failed in 2013 in the aftermath of the murder of 20 children and six staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.