WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is maintaining a noncommittal stance on gun control legislation following Saturday’s mass shooting in west Texas.
Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell said on Tuesday that any gun control legislation would have to wait until President Donald Trump decides on measures that the administration could support.
Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, a gunman opened fire on a highway during a routine traffic stop in Odessa, Texas, killing seven and injuring 25 others.
“Well, we’re in a discussion about what to do on the gun issue in the wake of these horrendous shootings,” McConnell said. “I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I’d be happy to put it on the floor.”
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His comments came in response to a question about gun control legislation that passed the Democratically-controlled House in February, which McConnell has blocked from a Senate vote. That legislation would strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases.
The Senate’s top Republican said he expects the administration to come to a conclusion next week.
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“If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor,” McConnell said.
Trump had come out strongly in support of gun control legislation in the wake of recent mass shootings, only to reverse his stance several times. He has also placed emphasis on the issue of mental health care in order to address gun violence.
The Kentucky lawmaker, who is up for reelection in 2020, said on Tuesday that he hopes voters will “focus on facts” rather than rhetoric. His opponents have labeled him a “grim reaper” of legislation and given him the moniker “Moscow Mitch.”
“It’s an effort to smear me,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s shooting, McConnell had already 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.”
And, because of Hurricane Dorian, the House Judiciary Committee canceled plans to return early from recess to work on gun bills. 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.
While the GOP-controlled Senate 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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Democratic politicians called on McConnell to move forward with the House-passed legislation after Saturday’s shooting.
“Do something, Senator McConnell. America is done waiting for you,” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted.
Contributing: Christal Hayes