Uni­fied Dems pres­sure GOP on curb­ing guns

Tac­tics, pub­lic out­rage un­likely to make dif­fer­ence

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Alan Fram

WASHINGTON — Democrats pressed Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell on Tues­day to ap­prove House-passed leg­is­la­tion ex­pand­ing back­ground checks and to take other steps curb­ing guns, in an of­fen­sive fu­eled by pub­lic out­rage over this month’s mass killings in Texas and Ohio.

It seemed un­likely that Democrats’ moves would have much im­pact on top Repub­li­cans. While Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and McCon­nell have ex­pressed a new open­ness to un­spec­i­fied gun curbs fol­low­ing the back-to-back mass shoot­ings in El Paso, Texas, and Day­ton, Ohio, their de­ci­sions will re­flect the sen­ti­ment of fel­low Repub­li­cans, not pre­dictable pres­sure tac­tics by Democrats.

Still, Democrats’ moves un­der­score their fo­cus on an is­sue that largely unites them — re­spond­ing to the mas­sacres that killed 31 peo­ple — and away from the party’s hand-wring­ing over whether to i mpeach Trump, a ques­tion that deeply di­vides Democrats.

McCon­nell, R-Ky., came un­der the sharpest at­tacks at a news con­fer­ence held by No. 2 House Demo­cratic leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., five other House Democrats and gun ac­tivists and sur­vivors of shoot­ings.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said McCon­nell hadn’t moved gun curb leg­is­la­tion be­cause “he’s wait­ing for the out­rage to die down, the head­lines to change, the peo­ple to turn the page and think about some­thing else.” Congress is out of town on re­cess un­til a week af­ter La­bor Day.

Hoyer re­sorted to read­ing lyrics from “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan’s 1962 song. “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many peo­ple have died,” Hoyer said, paus­ing for ef­fect.

Rep. An­thony Brown, DMd., cited sta­tis­tics on the thou­sands of gun fa­tal­i­ties an­nu­ally and said, “In the face of this epi­demic, Mitch McCon­nell is do­ing noth­ing.”

Democrats fo­cused on McCon­nell’s fail­ure to let the Sen­ate con­sider a mea­sure the House ap­proved in Fe­bru­ary. It would re­quire back­ground checks for most pri­vate sales, in­clud­ing on­line and gun show pur­chases of firearms, not just for trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing reg­is­tered gun deal­ers.

The White House has threat­ened that Trump would veto that bill, which the Demo­cratic-led House ap­proved largely along party lines.

In an in­ter­view last week with Louisville, Ken­tucky, ra­dio sta­tion WHAS-AM, McCon­nell point­edly noted that for a pro­posal to be­come law, it must pass the House and Sen­ate “and it has to be signed by Pres­i­dent Trump.”

Trump told re­porters in NewJersey on Tues­day that he’s “con­vinced that Mitch wants to do some­thing” on guns. He added, “He wants to do back­ground checks and I do too.”

Trump also said he’d had “a very good con­ver­sa­tion” with Sen. Chris Mur­phy, D-Conn., a strong gun con­trol ad­vo­cate.

Trump pro­vided no specifics and it was un­clear how tough a back­ground check mea­sure Repub­li­cans might con­sider. McCon­nell said ear­lier this month that back­ground checks and “red flags” — bills help­ing au­thor­i­ties re­move guns from un­sta­ble peo­ple — would “prob­a­bly lead the dis­cus­sion.”

“What we can’t do is fail to pass some­thing,” McCon­nell said. “What I want to see here is an out­come.”

Hoyer said the Demo­cratic-run House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee will con­sider gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion, though he stopped short of say­ing they would hold votes.

He said the panel could dis­cuss mea­sures ban­ning as­sault weapons and high­ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines and mak­ing it eas­ier for au­thor­i­ties to con­fis­cate guns from un­sta­ble peo­ple.

The com­mit­tee could re­turn from re­cess in early Septem­ber to con­sider gun mea­sures, ac­cord­ing peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the panel’s plans who weren’t au­tho­rized to speak on the record.

Sep­a­rately, Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to di­vert $5 bil­lion he’s wanted to build his wall along the south­ern bor­der to in­ves­ti­gat­ing do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism and con­duct­ing re­search on gun vi­o­lence.

“The dual scourges of gun vi­o­lence and vi­o­lent white su­prem­a­cist ex­trem­ism in this coun­try are a na­tional se­cu­rity threat plain and sim­ple, and it’s time the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Repub­li­cans in Congress start­ing treat­ing them as such,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a state­ment.

Pa­trick Cru­sius, 21, ac­cused of the El Paso shoot­ings, has told au­thor­i­ties he was tar­get­ing Mex­i­cans.

Schumer’s plea ap­peared to largely be an at­tempt to frame the is­sue po­lit­i­cally, and it seemed highly un­likely Trump will heed it.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny Hoyer of Mary­land, cen­ter, and sev­eral of his Demo­cratic col­leagues fo­cus Tues­day on ratch­et­ing up gun con­trol, an is­sue that largely unites their party.

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