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America Is Saying “Do Something” on Gun Control. Washington Isn’t in a Hurry.

Mitch McConnell indicated background checks are on the table when the Senate reconvenes on Sept. 6

by Morgan Baskin
Aug 9 2019, 3:01pm

President Trump and Mitch McConnell are actually making noises about considering background checks after last weekend’s two horrific mass shootings. But they don’t seem to be in any great rush: Neither Senate Majority Leader McConnell nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called their conferences back from summer recess for an emergency session, despite loud calls from Democrats to do so.

“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have also been speaking to the [National Rifle Association], and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected,” President Trump tweeted early Friday morning.

“Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people,” he continued, echoing scripted remarks he made Monday.

In brief remarks outside the White House Friday morning, Trump reiterated: "We have to have meaningful background checks."

The remarks came less than a day after McConnell indicated in a radio appearance in his home state of Kentucky that background checks are on the table when the Senate reconvenes on Sept. 6.

“Background checks and red flags will probably lead the discussion,” McConnell told Louisville station WHAS. Referring to background checks and red flag legislation, he said, “Those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass.”

But on gun control, Democrats still have an uneasy ally in the president, who has waffled greatly within the last week on what legislative gun control measures he would support, and in McConnell, who has long opposed universal background checks. (A spokesperson for McConnell declined to elaborate further on McConnell’s remarks.)

Trump tweeted early Monday that he would support background checks if coupled with immigration reform, but appeared to walk back those statements during his White House address, when he put the blame for rampant gun violence on mental illness and violent video games.

And McConnell has refused to hold a vote on a gun control bill House Democrats passed in February that would require background checks for gun sales, despite calls this week from Schumer, Pelosi, and a conference of over 200 mayors to reconvene the Senate in an emergency session to discuss gun control measures and white supremacy.

His comments on Thursday are the closest he’s come to publicly entertaining the idea.

After Trump addressed the nation Monday morning from the White House and expressed some interest in a federal red flag law, which would allow family members to petition courts in attempt to prevent mentally ill people from possessing guns, McConnell said in a statement that he would encourage three Republican committee chairman to “to engage in bipartisan discussions.”

Some have. Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey is reportedly working on background check legislation — for a third time — with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. And South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham is finalizing a bill to implement a federal red flag law with Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

But it’s not just McConnell that Democrats have to worry about. Shortly after McConnell’s interview on Thursday, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre doubled down on the organization’s disapproval of measures that would curb gun sales.

“I can confirm that the NRA opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. The inconvenient truth is this: the proposals being discussed by many would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton,” he said.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll this week found that 70 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans, would endorse banning assault weapons. A whopping 90 percent said they'd endorse universal background checks.

"Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better"

And in a statement released on Wednesday, Schumer made it clear that he isn’t interested in voting on a red flag law if it’s not coupled with a vote on universal background checks.

“The notion that passing a tepid version of [red flag] bill—alone—is even close to getting the job done in addressing rampant gun violence in the U.S. is wrong and would be an ineffective cop out,” Schumer said.

“We Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side. Democrats in the Senate will seek to require that any [red flag] bill that comes to the floor is accompanied by a vote on the House-passed universal background checks legislation,” he continued.

Cover: President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Washington, as he prepares to leave Washington for his annual August holiday at his New Jersey golf club. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mass Shootings
background checks
Mitch McConnell