Democrats Press McConnell, Trump To Move on Background Checks
WASHINGTON – Democrats led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump on Tuesday to endorse House-passed legislation expanding background checks on gun buyers and to take other steps to prevent mass shootings like those in Texas and Ohio earlier this month.
“We are here today to call on Leader McConnell to stop taking orders from the NRA and start listening to the voices of victims and those whose communities have been impacted by gun violence,” Hoyer said at a news conference attended by Reps. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., Don Beyer, D-Va., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Anthony Brown, D-Md.
Joining the lawmakers were several survivors of gun violence and advocates for gun law reform.
“We are urging [the Majority Leader] to call the Senate back and take up H.R. 8 immediately. The House has acted; now the Senate must do so as well, before countless more Americans lose their lives or their loved ones,” Hoyer said.
While both the president and McConnell have shown some willingness in recent days to take an as-yet undefined step to curb guns, no one attending Tuesday’s news conference expected the Senate to rush back to Washington to tackle the issue.
But the event gave Democrats an opportunity to show that they can unite on large issues of critical importance to the nation.
Not surprisingly, McConnell’s refusal to hold a vote on H.R. 8, the background check bill the House passed in a bipartisan vote of 240-190 in February, attracted the most criticism.
The bill would require a background check for every firearm purchase, closing loopholes that have allowed domestic abusers and mentally ill individuals to obtain dangerous, military-style weapons and use them to commit gun violence.
“For the many Americans who have been killed since Mitch McConnell refused to pass H.R. 8, it is too late,” Congressman Beyer said. “For the hundred, on average, who will die today, tomorrow, each day next week, time is passing quickly.
“We could save so many lives by passing this legislation to expand background checks. Mitch McConnell’s refusal to help reduce gun violence in America is one of the great moral failures of our time,” Beyer said.
“He’s waiting for the outrage [over the El Paso and Dayton massacres] to die down, the headlines to change, the people to turn the page and think about something else.”
Representative Dingell said she had been approached last week by a young mother whose daughter is starting kindergarten in a few weeks.
“She couldn’t decide between the backpack her daughter wanted or a bulletproof backpack,” Dingell said.
“As children get ready to begin a new school year, they shouldn’t have to think about this. It’s time for the Senate to act on background check legislation. It’s a much needed first step in an overdue conversation,” the representative said.
Both Representatives Payne and Brown spoke of the gun violence that occurs in American neighborhoods every day.
“While we mourn those lost in these all-too-frequent disasters, let’s remember that some cities suffer these tragedies daily,” Payne said.
“Our nation is faced with an epidemic of gun violence in our communities, and a crisis of leadership in the Republican-controlled Senate,” agreed Brown. “However, states across the country, including Maryland, have made progress in spite of this lack of leadership, banning assault rifles, implementing a red flag law, and strengthening background checks. It’s time for Congress to do the same.”
Immediately after the House passed H.R. 8 last winter, the White House threatened that Trump would veto it if it reached his desk.
But as he spoke with reporters on Tuesday, the president said he’s “convinced that Mitch wants to do something” on guns.
“He wants to do background checks and I do too,” he said.
McConnell said earlier this month background checks and “red flag” bills intended to help authorities take guns from mentally unstable people, would “probably” be on the table.
Hoyer said the House Judiciary Committee would return early from August recess to consider gun legislation. Among the topics he said the committee could discuss are possible bans on assault weapons and hi-capacity magazines.
In something of a surprise, Hoyer leaned on a nearly 60-year-old Bob Dylan song to make his point.
Holding a lyric sheet in his hand, he read from Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” a hit for the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963.
“How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died,” Hoyer said.
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