McConnell wants to examine gun violence
WASHINGTON – After a torrent of criticism blasting congressional inaction, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has directed key senators to begin examining ways of curbing gun violence in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
In a statement issued Monday, the Kentucky Republican said he spoke with the chairman of three committees – Judiciary; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
“I asked them to reflect on the subjects the president raised within their jurisdictions and encouraged them to engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our communities without infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights,” he said in the statement.
McConnell noted that it was “serious, bipartisan work” that led to bills strengthening some background checks and providing resources to expand mental health programs, training, and school safety programs.
Democratic congressional leaders have criticized McConnell for not taking up background check legislation approved by the House in February. Democrats called on McConnell to bring senators back to Washington but McConnell’s statement makes no mention that he’s considering such a step.
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.
Trump: Slams white nationalism, vows to respond with ‘urgent resolve’ to El Paso, Dayton shootings
Investigators said they believe the suspected shooter in the El Paso attack, Patrick Crusius, wrote 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.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said condolences were not enough.
They urged McConnell to pass legislation to beef up background checks. The Senate is not scheduled to return from summer break until Sept. 9.
Dayton: After weekend of horror, Dayton residents left with one question on shooting: Why?
El Paso: ‘One of the lowest points in American history’: El Paso struggles to recover from mass shooting
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 this year with overwhelming Democratic support and the backing of a handful of Republicans.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Monday that the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a series of hearings starting next week “to address the national and personal security threat of white supremacy and domestic terrorism.”
She also said she’s pressing McConnell to pass the background check measures the House passed earlier this year.
“The President and Mitch McConnell have to feel the public sentiment on this,” she told Democratic lawmakers on a call Monday, according to a Democratic aide on the call. “We have a golden opportunity to save lives.”
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 website 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.”
During a nationally televised address Monday, President Donald Trump said he would support “red flag” laws that would allow family members or law enforcement to limit a person’s access to firearms if that person was deemed a potential threat to the public.
Trump 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 that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is 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 after 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 USA in 216 days, more shootings than days in the year
Contributing: NIcholas Wu