WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump to convene both parties to discuss “some rational laws on gun safety” after a gunman in Las Vegas carried out the country’s worst mass shooting.
Trump opened the door to that possibility as he left to visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, telling reporters asking if he was open to new gun-restriction laws, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
And asked on his flight back to Washington if he’s open to a debate on gun control measures, Trump said, “Perhaps that will come. But that’s not for now.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) both said now is not the time to address gun legislation and made it clear their top legislative priority is the Republican tax plan and budget legislation.
Asked about a gun bill, McConnell said, “Look, the investigation has not even been complete, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislation.” Ryan said, “Right now, we’re focused on passing our budget.”
As has happened after many previous mass shootings over the years, Democrats immediately demanded passage of laws tightening restrictions on gun purchases, and Republicans quickly focused instead on mental health issues as they defended Second Amendment rights.
Republican leaders have blocked even bipartisan bills, including one to close a gun-show loophole by requiring background checks on all commercial sales.
That bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), will be reintroduced next week, King said. But he added, “I’ll do what I can, I just don’t see anything happening right now.”
This year, Republicans also find themselves on the defensive, putting off a bill to legalize silencers for the second time. They canceled a hearing on it after a gunman wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others at a congressional baseball practice earlier this year.
“Today I am calling on the president to come out against the absurd law about silencers. Threaten to veto it if he must and put an end to that bill,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
“That bill’s not scheduled now. I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled,” Ryan said.
Republicans also have not brought up another bill that would authorize concealed carry of guns nationally and across state lines — legislation Democrats oppose.
Schumer, Democrats and their gun-control allies acknowledge congressional gridlock over gun laws, but held out hope that Trump might revert to his position before he became involved in politics.
“After Sandy Hook, he called for the gun laws to be tightened,” said Schumer. He said Trump ran in 2016 with the NRA’s support, “but maybe he can have a bit of a reawakening because of the horror of what happened as he goes to Las Vegas tomorrow.”
To back gun-control legislation, Trump would have to break with the NRA, which backs both Republican bills to loosen gun regulations in Congress. The NRA also backed Trump with a rally and $6 million in TV ads when other Republican groups avoided him last year.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who pushed a gun-restriction law through New York’s legislature, said it was “ludicrous” that the White House says that now, so soon after the shooting, is not the time to talk about gun bills. “Now is precisely the time to talk about it,” said Cuomo, a Democrat.