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Congressional Democrats press for gun laws in wake of mass shootings

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks Tuesday

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Al Drago

WASHINGTON — Democrats pushed Congress on Tuesday to address last month’s deadly mass shootings, as advocates pressured Senate Republicans to hold a vote on universal background checks and a House panel approved three new gun-control bills.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, repeated his vow that he would not bring any gun-related legislation to the Senate floor for debate and votes until President Donald Trump reveals which bills, if any, he supports and will sign into law.

“We do, in fact, await word from the White House about what the president will sign,” McConnell told reporters after the weekly Senate caucus luncheons. “Until that happens, all of this is theatrics.”

Trump met with McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top Republicans at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, but none of them commented afterward.

“We’re talking about the entire agenda,” McCarthy told reporters after his morning caucus meeting, including “gun legislation in ways that we can make sure that these horrific things that take place will never happen again.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) kept up the pressure on McConnell for a second day in a row, after he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a news conference Monday to urge McConnell to allow a vote on the House-passed universal background check bill.

“The president can provide Republicans important political cover. They shouldn’t need it, because so many Americans are for this, but they do, because of the power, sometimes exercised rather ruthlessly, by the NRA,” Schumer said in his floor remarks Tuesday morning.

Schumer later said Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine in a nightlife district, described the scars gun violence had left cities across the country in an address at the Democrats’ luncheon.

On the House side, Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, held a forum where high school students from Parkland, Florida, Chicago and other cities offered suggestions on how to curb shootings.

In a session that went into the night, the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee approved along party lines gun-control measures after lengthy, sometimes contentious and personal debate, sending the measures to the full House with a recommendation that they be passed.

The Democratic majority approved a “red flag” bill that would offer grants to states to adopt laws providing for Extreme Risk Protection Orders and would create a federal process that would disarm people deemed a risk to themselves or others from possessing or buying firearms.

And the majority also voted for a bill to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines, which can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and to add a “hate crime” conviction to the disqualifying factors used in FBI background checks of potential firearm purchasers.

“In total, 53 people were killed in mass shootings in August alone,” committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Odessa-Midland, Texas. “At a vigil to commemorate the victims in Dayton, the Governor’s speech was drowned out by calls to ‘Do something!’ Today, we will.”

But Georgia's Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican, rejected all three bills.

“I stand ready to work with you on sensible solutions that could actually prevent these atrocities. What I am not willing to do is support legislation that will do nothing to make us safer and simultaneously infringes on the rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution,” he said.

“Unfortunately, all three bills we are considering today do just that,” Collins said.

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