Tim Ryan leads gun control caravan to Mitch McConnell
Democratic presidential hopeful Tim Ryan said Thursday night that Republican Mitch McConnell needs to call the Senate back into session “immediately” if majority leader is serious about having a conversation on expanding background checks for gun owners.
“I’ve watched him slow walk this time and time and time again, and they’re going to the same playbook,” Ryan told the Courier Journal in an exclusive interview before the rally. “It’s just a bunch of bologna.”
McConnell, who is resting in Louisville after fracturing his shoulder over the weekend, said Thursday on 84 WHAS radio he is anxious to get a conversation going in the next few weeks with his fellow legislators about gun legislation to deal with shootings like the ones that happened over the weekend.
Read this: McConnell’s campaign locked out by Twitter for posting critic’s profanity-laced video
“What we can’t do is fail to pass something,” the Senate majority leader told WHAS radio host Terry Meiners late Thursday afternoon. “The urgency of this is not lost on any of us.”
Ryan, a congressman from Ohio, has expressed outrage with McConnell in the days following mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that have left 31 people dead.
He organized a caravan with Moms Demand Action, an anti-gun violence group, to travel more than 370 miles, including six stops through the region before its final leg in McConnell’s hometown, where around 1,500 people gathered in support.
Protesters came with signs with messages like “Mitch Do Something,” “Ban These Killing Machines” and “Make America Safe Again.”
The crowd also chanted “end the silence, no more violence” and “bring it to the floor.” The latter chant is a reference to McConnell ignoring multiple gun-control measures passed by the Democrat-controlled House.
More: Mitch McConnell: We can’t fail to pass a gun control measure
Freshman Kentucky State Rep. Nima Kulkarni of Louisville spoke at Thursday evening’s rally, saying the event is an “urgent call to end gun violence.”
“We need leaders who will prioritize people over guns,” Kulkarni said. “We need leaders who will do something, and if you can’t do that then you are failing all of us.”
Cathy Mekus, a leader with the Louisville chapter of Moms Demand Action, said that almost 40,000 people die each year from a gunshot, and that the “trauma to this sort of slaughter is tearing us apart, and we can do something.”
Also: Editorial: McConnell, we need thoughtful gun control legislation. We need your leadership
Hollan Holm, who was shot in the head during a shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky in 1997, took a jab at McConnell for his “prayers” comment following this past weekend’s shootings.
“I remember thoughts and prayers being brought up on Heath’s behalf,” he said. “Thoughts and prayers weren’t enough to stop the violence then.”
“I was shot in a prayer group,” Holm said, “What’s your plan B?”
Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott of Louisville said that there is work to be done to make sure McConnell “remains uncomfortable … even in his backyard and at his front door and wherever he goes to eat.”
Scott confirmed to the Courier Journal after the rally that she does indeed want people to go to McConnell’s home and anywhere he is to peacefully protest.
“He’s not doing anything about people dying,” she told the Courier Journal.
Scott was possibly referencing an expletive-filled protest that occurred out of McConnell’s Louisville home Monday night.
Black Lives Matter Louisville leader Chanelle Helm said in a live video of the protest that instead of falling and injuring his shoulder over the weekend, McConnell “should have broken his little raggedy, wrinkled-(expletive) neck.”
After a man makes a reference to a hypothetical McConnell voodoo doll, Helm replied, “Just stab the m—– f—– in the heart.”
Both Ryan and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, condemned the protest in an interview with the Courier Journal earlier in the night.
“The substance of what (the protesters) said certainly is way over the line, as far as I’m concerned,” Yarmuth said. “You never wish harm on anybody.”
Ryan concurred, stating, “We’re trying to make Mitch McConnell as uncomfortable as humanly possible, but there’s a way to do that within the confines of respecting peoples’ privacy and neighborhoods and all the rest.”
Yarmuth said at the rally that, as a grandfather, he wonders if his grandson will need an armored stroller or to carry a bullet-proof backpack to school.
“This is not the country we deserve,” he said. “We can make a difference. We can take action.”
Meanwhile, Ryan told the crowd that it is time to get special interests out of government and to play more offense than defense.
“We are fed up,” he said. “We don’t want anymore speeches … we don’t want left and right. We want new and better.”
Ryan, who temporarily suspended his campaign after the Dayton shooting, told the Courier Journal that prioritizing stronger gun control measures “is now something that will be part of my pitch and my message moving forward.” He will resume his presidential campaign at an event tomorrow in Iowa.
“Our number one responsibility is to keep people safe. Period. End of story. You keep people safe,” Ryan said. “This president and Senator McConnell are abdicating their responsibility to keep us safe as Americans.”
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 the senator did say that the background checks would be “front and center” in the debate once the Senate reconvenes in September. He said another priority would 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.
Priorities once the senate is back in session, McConnell said, are to discuss background checks and red flags that may give a person away as a candidate for violence.