Hurricane Dorian causes House panel to delay taking up gun bills
WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee announced Friday that due to Hurricane Dorian it was canceling plans to have its members come back early from a six-week break to get a jump start on taking up a batch of gun bills.
The Category 3 storm, which is projected to strengthen to a Category 4, is forecasted to slam Florida early next week when the congressional panel had planned to mark up several bills in the wake of recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Tx. and Dayton, Ohio.
“Due to Hurricane Dorian potentially impacting millions of Floridians and the travel of Members of the House Judiciary Committee, including five Members who represent districts in Florida, this markup has been postponed and will take place during the week of September 9, 2019,” the committee announced Friday evening.
The panel planned to have its members come back to work early and hold a Wednesday meeting before Congress was scheduled to be back in session on Sept. 9. The delay dampers efforts by Democrats to quickly get several gun bills in shape for a House vote and shift public attention back to the issue of guns, which includes putting intense pressure on Republicans in the Senate to take up meaningful action on gun laws and background checks.
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“For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in announcing the hearing. “Thoughts and prayers have never been enough. To keep our communities safe, we must act.”
The trio of bills the committee will examine includes measures that would prevent those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from being eligible to purchase firearms, a proposal aimed to entice states to create “red flag” programs and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
The Senate, though, is unlikely to take up any of the legislation and has instead been examining its own measures addressing mental health, video games and a “red flag” proposal, which Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. has said he would introduce.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has instructed the chairman of three committees – Judiciary; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — to examine an array of potential bipartisan solutions “to help protect our communities without infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights.”
But a large component of what the Senate ends up proposing will depend on the White House and President Donald Trump.
After the series of back-to-back shootings in both July and August, Trump appeared to be in support of stricter background checks for firearms then seemed to reverse course, telling reporters he believes the current laws are already “very strong.”
The back-and-forth came as Trump discussed background checks with Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association.