McConnell silent on calls for Senate return

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is showing no sign of heeding Democratic calls to bring senators back from summer recess to address gun violence following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

“If we have anything to add to the statements the Leader issued this weekend we will be sure to forward them along,” David Popp, McConnell’s spokesman replied when asked if he planned to summon the Senate back.

In tweets after the shootings, McConnell said the events were “sickening and that “the entire nation is horrified.” He added that his “prayers go out to the victims of this terrible violence, their families and friends, and the brave first responders who charged into harm’s way.”

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Democratic congressional leaders have criticized McConnell for not taking up background check legislation approved by the House in February. Democrats have called on McConnell to bring senators back to Washington.

Thirty-one people were killed in the shootings over the weekend – 22 in a Walmart in El Paso and nine in Dayton’s trendy Oregon District. 

Investigators say they believe the suspected shooter in the El Paso attack, Patrick Crusius, authored a 2,356-word “manifesto” that was posted online shortly before the massacre and was filled with “racist hate.” Crusius, who is white, laced his manifesto with anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, saying he advocates a plan to divide the nation into territories by race.

Prominent Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said that condolences were not enough.

They are urging McConnell to pass legislation to beef up background checks that already has passed the House. The Senate is not scheduled to return from summer break until Sept. 9.

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One House-passed bill would close a potential loophole allowing the transfer of firearms without a background check at gun shows or between individuals.

Another measure would extend to at least 10 days the amount of time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before the sale can proceed. Currently, they can make the sale if they haven’t received a response in three days.

Both bills passed earlier this year with overwhelming Democratic support and the backing of a handful of Republicans. 

McConnell, who has blocked most gun control legislation since he’s been majority leader, has consistently received donations and endorsements from the National Rifle Association.

The gun rights organization said in a statement on its web site that it “will not participate in the politicizing of these tragedies but, as always, we will work in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts.”

President Donald Trump during a nationally televised address Monday said he would support “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.

Trump also indicated that his administration’s response to the shootings would be focused more on mental health and cultural issues than on gun control. 

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said.

Pressure for  McConnell to act on bills banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is also coming from gun-control groups such as Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign.

“Enough! How many times do we have to keep saying it? This is a national emergency,” Brady Campaign President Kris Brown said in a statement following the Dayton shooting. “Sen. McConnell needs to immediately call Congress back from recess before this public health epidemic spirals any further out of control.”

Growing toll: El Paso, Dayton make 251 mass shootings in the US in 216 days, more shootings than days in the year

Contributing: NIcholas Wu

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