Washington - Congress will pass laws to expand background checks for gun buyers and tighten enforcement against illegal gun purchases only when the American people "raise their voices" to force lawmakers to take action, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.
Senate Democrats, led by Schumer, launched another campaign to build support for the passage of legislation similar to the bill proposed, and defeated, two years ago after a shooter killed 20 young students and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
"We have the broad support of our caucus," Schumer said as he and nearly all Democratic senators stood on the steps of the Capitol under a bright sun. "We are now asking for the American people to make their voices heard."
Democrats are counting on those voices, after another mass shooting took nine lives on Oct. 1 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
The news conference came a day before President Barack Obama was scheduled to fly to Roseburg on Friday to visit families of those killed.
Legislation for better vetting of gun buyers faces formidable opposition from the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress, especially Republicans who control both chambers and appear unlikely to take up the bills the Democrats proposed.
But Schumer and other Democrats said polls show the American people want "common sense" expansion of background checks,
The Democrats outlined three principles for the legislation: Close loopholes through which guns are sold without background checks on the Internet and at gun shows; improve and strengthen current background checks that too often let ineligible purchases slip by; and close the pipeline for illegal gun purchases, often made by a third party who transfers the weapons to barred buyers.
"We expect there will be a groundswell of public support," Schumer said. "Once that groundswell comes we will draft legislation based on these principles."
Then, he said, Democrats will force a vote on the Senate floor through any and all means possible, he said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is an author of the legislation making it a federal crime for a "straw buyer" to purchase guns for those ineligible to buy them.