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Gun-control battle continues in House Wednesday

This image courtesy of Rep. Elizabeth Esty's office

This image courtesy of Rep. Elizabeth Esty's office shows Rep. John Lewis, center, and other members of Congress staging a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives on June 22, 2016 to demand a vote on gun-control legislation following the Orlando nightclub shooting. Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The political battle over guns will continue in the House Wednesday as Democrats keep pressing votes on their two gun-control bills while Republicans move ahead with an anti-terrorism package that includes an NRA-backed measure that Democrats oppose.

A vote is expected this week on legislation designed to keep the focus on terrorism rather than guns that was unveiled last week by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a week after Democrats sat-in on the House floor for nearly 26 hours to demand votes on guns.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was scheduled to meet with Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and John Larson of Connecticut, the leaders of the sit-in Tuesday night.

Democrats relaunched their demands for votes when the House returned to business Tuesday. About 50 of their members gave one- or two-minute speeches to urge passage of legislation to expand background checks to gun shows and the Internet and passing the “no fly no buy” bill.

“We’re not going to stop speaking on and talking about, no matter what’s on the floor, on the two bills we want a vote on,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans). “You’re going to see folks coming to the Capitol asking for a vote on the House floor.”

It is unclear is Democrats will get a vote on their measures. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said the panel would work Wednesday to assemble a legislative package that Republicans can pass.

The House bills are the same ones the Senate took up and failed to pass nearly three weeks ago as a response to the ISIS-inspired mass shooting that killed 49 at an Orlando gay nightclub on June 12.

The overlap of terrorism and mass shootings has changed the politics of guns for the moment, a shift both sides have acknowledged.

“There is no question we believe it is an important issue and have with all the mass shootings,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “But the fact of terrorists using guns has actually elevated it further.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), sponsor of the gun measure in the Republican anti-terrorism package, last week said, “I haven’t met a single member of Congress who wants to see terrorists acquire any firearms or explosives.”

In the House, the two bills at the center of the debate are sponsored by Zeldin and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

Zeldin’s bill allows law enforcement to block a suspected terrorist from legally buying a gun but only by showing probable cause and getting a court order to stop the sale within 72 hours.

Zeldin said the bill, which is backed by the National Rifle Association, would stop terrorists from getting guns and protects constitutional rights.

King’s bill allows law enforcement to prevent legal sales of firearms if the prospective buyer is on a terrorist watch lists but allows the buyer to appeal the decision. King said his bill is more workable for law enforcement.


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