Background checks ‘front and center’ on gun control
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he was willing to consider expanding background checks for gun buyers as a caravan of protesters led by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan descended in Louisville to press him on gun control.
“What we can’t do is fail to pass something,” McConnell told WHAS radio host Terry Meiners late Thursday afternoon. “The urgency of this is not lost on any of us.”
McConnell’s statement showed he might be pivoting away from holding up gun control legislation that had passed the U.S. House, although he didn’t mention two gun measures that passed that chamber in February.
But Ryan, upon arriving in McConnell’s hometown, told the Courier Journal the senator’s words were “a bunch of bologna.”
“The history of President Trump and Mitch McConnell is they try to slow walk this until it falls out of the news cycle,” said Ryan, who has suspended his presidential campaign in the wake of mass shootings that left 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.
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McConnell has been under intense pressure to act since those shootings, and Ryan called on him Thursday to immediately call the Senate back from its August recess to act on the issue. McConnell did not say that he would bring the Senate back in session.
This week, protesters have amassed at McConnell’s Louisville home and office. A profane video of a protester wishing McConnell harm caused his campaign’s Twitter account to be suspended after it posted the footage.
In his radio interview, McConnell said the Senate would take up the debate in September with background checks “front and center.” Another priority will be red flag laws, which would allow family members or law enforcement to limit a person’s access to firearms if they are deemed a potential threat to the public.
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Ryan has criticized McConnell for inaction on House bills that passed with bipartisan support and would strengthen background checks in gun purchases.
On Thursday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which includes 214 mayors from around the country, sent a letter to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to immediately vote on the two bills.
In February, the Trump administration issued a statement saying both bills would impose oppressive delays and requirements on gun purchases and that the president’s advisers would recommend he veto the bills if either were presented to him.
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But on Wednesday, President Donald Trump signaled an “appetite” to change the laws on background checks. McConnell followed a day later.
Ryan said his goal is “to make Mitch McConnell as uncomfortable as humanly possible.”
“This (gun control) is now something that will be part of my pitch and my message moving forward,” he said.
Mayors: El Paso, Dayton mayors want quick action on gun control but Mitch McConnell has no plans to speed things along
Lucas Aulbach can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @LucasAulbachCJ.