What will Congress do on gun control after Midland-Odessa shooting?
WASHINGTON – A day after the country’s latest mass shooting, the fourth high-profile one since the House of Representatives went on recess at the end of July, President Donald Trump said lawmakers have “a lot of thinking to do” about ways to address gun violence.
Saturday’s deadly shooting in the area of Midland-Odessa, Texas, renewed lawmakers’ demands for action on gun control once Congress returns from recess on Sept. 9.
The shootings and deaths have brought mixed messages from Trump on gun control, and lawmakers have split on ways for Congress to address the issue.
On Sunday, speaking to reporters after returning from Camp David, Trump said “Congress has a lot of thinking to do,” when asked about the impact the Texas shooting could have on negotiations over gun measures.
More: What we know about the deadly shooting in Midland-Odessa, Texas
More: 5 dead, 21 wounded in mass shooting in Midland-Odessa, Texas; shooter killed
More: Mitch McConnell: Background checks will be ‘front and center’ in Congress gun debate
At the same time, Trump dismissed the idea that stricter background checks would have made a difference.
“We’re looking at the same things,” Trump said. “It really hasn’t changed anything.”
Speaking later Sunday at the beginning of a briefing at FEMA, Trump said his administration wanted to “do the best we can to reduce” mass shootings.
To do so, his administration aimed to “keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals,” reform the mental health system, and identify “severely disturbed individuals” before attacks.
“Public Safety is our number one priority, always wanting to protect our Second Amendment,” he added.
It is unclear, though, if Congress will pass any legislation to address the issue when members return.
The gun violence
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks such incidents, there have been 280 mass shootings in 2019, where at least four people were injured or killed excluding the perpetrators.
To date, including the Odessa-Midland shooting, 602 people have died in mass shootings in 2019 and 2,356 have been injured.
But it’s the most recent shootings, which happened during the congressional recess, that have put the spotlight on gun control.
Before the Odessa-Midland shooting, there were three high-profile mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Congress did not pass any gun control measures in the wake of those shootings or return early from recess to debate the issue. All happened after the House went on break in late July.
Congressional Democrats were still hopeful, though, the most recent shooting could revive the push for gun control measures.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., wrote on Twitter, “the horror of mass shooting and the daily toll [of] gun violence will continue until the Senate acts to reduce the bloodshed.”
Congress reacts to latest shooting
Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to take up legislation the House of Representatives had passed in February that would expand background checks on gun sales.
Pelosi said in a statement that “The Republican Senate must end its obstruction and finally pass the commonsense, bipartisan, House-passed gun violence prevention legislation that the country is demanding.”
Schumer called on McConnell to “bring up H.R. 8 the week Congress returns.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is also a Democratic presidential candidate, said, “do something, Senator McConnell. America is done waiting for you.”
The House Judiciary Committee had planned to return from recess early to discuss gun control legislation, but Hurricane Dorian’s impending landfall forced the panel to cancel its plans.
Congressional Republicans have generally opposed measures proposed by Democrats like an assault weapons ban in favor of some legislation that would address mental health.
On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that “There’s lots of proposals. I’m going to review them and work to figure out how to do it.”
Scott noted, though, that he would oppose an assault weapons ban when pressed on the issue, saying, “I’m focused on the people that have problems.”
Trump’s comments on gun control
Trump, for his part, has given mixed messages on gun measures over the past month, having reversed his position on background checks several times.
On Aug. 9, before leaving the White House, Trump said, “frankly, we need intelligent background checks,” adding that “this isn’t a question of NRA, Republican, or Democrat.” Trump also told reporters that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was “totally onboard.”
On Aug. 18, after arriving at Morristown Airport in New Jersey and seeming to back away from supporting background checks Trump said, “A lot of people want to see something happen. But just remember this: Big mental problem, and we do have a lot of background checks now.”
On Aug. 21, before leaving for an event in Louisville, Ky., Trump said he would support background checks after all, “We’re going to be doing background checks…We’re going to be filling in some of the loopholes.”
These reversals from Trump and partisan divisions in Congress leave the outlook on legislation uncertain, despite the clamor from lawmakers and presidential candidates.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., who has proposed an expanded background check bill in the Senate, struck a pessimistic tone in a television interview on Sunday morning.
“[Trump] is very interested in doing something meaningful,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., on ABC’s “This Week,” but added, “I can’t guarantee an outcome. I’m not sure where this all ends.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, had harsher words than other politicians following the shooting, calling it “f—ed up.”
Contributing: Olivia Sanchez, John Fritze