Law­mak­ers wait for Trump to weigh in on gun leg­is­la­tion

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND NATION & WORLD - By Mike DeBo­nis and Paul Kane

WASH­ING­TON — Congress is stuck in a hold­ing pat­tern on tougher gun re­stric­tions — af­ter a string of mass shoot­ings killed 53 in Au­gust alone — as law­mak­ers wait for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to de­cide how he wants to re­spond.

White House aides briefed Repub­li­can se­na­tors on po­ten­tial leg­isla­tive op­tions at their pri­vate weekly lun­cheon Tues­day — in­clud­ing pos­si­bly ex­pand­ing the fed­eral back­ground check sys­tem for gun buy­ers and en­cour­ag­ing states to cre­ate sys­tems to tem­po­rar­ily seize guns from in­di­vid­u­als judged to be dan­ger­ous — but they gave no in­di­ca­tion of what Trump him­self is will­ing to sign into law, ex­as­per­at­ing some of those present.

“There was no, even, hint as to where the pres­i­dent is go­ing to come down,” said one sen­a­tor, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to de­scribe the pri­vate meet­ing with Eric Ue­land, the top White House leg­isla­tive af­fairs aide, and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. “It’s just a laun­dry list of things he’s look­ing at, noth­ing that sur­pris­ing.”

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter­ward, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., con­firmed Trump has yet to weigh in on the sub­ject and scolded Democrats for push­ing him to call up a House-passed back­ground checks bill that Trump has vowed to veto.

“They are work­ing on com­ing up with a pro­posal that the pres­i­dent will sign,” he said. “Un­til that hap­pens, all of this is the­atrics.”

But Democrats, seeing firm po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage in push­ing for de­ci­sive ac­tion on gun vi­o­lence, have not been shy about ramp­ing up the pres­sure. Se­nate Democrats in­vited the mayor of Day­ton, Ohio, Nan Wha­ley, to ad­dress their own lunch to dis­cuss the Aug. 4 shoot­ing in her city that left nine with fa­tal wounds in less than a minute.

Out­side the Capi­tol, Wha­ley and other lead­ers of ci­ties touched by re­cent mass shoot­ings — such as Pittsburgh and An­napo­lis, Mary­land — ral­lied with gun con­trol ad­vo­cates for con­gres­sional ac­tion.

The party’s con­gres­sional lead­ers told their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts that it was not ac­cept­able to wait for Trump, who has con­stantly shifted his po­si­tion on rem­e­dy­ing gun vi­o­lence, to de­cide what he wants.

“I’d say there’s one word that de­scribes Mitch McCon­nell’s at­ti­tude on this vi­tal is­sue of life and death, and that is: duck,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “He’s afraid of this is­sue, but that’s not what a leader should be do­ing.”

In the Demo­cratic-ma­jor­ity House, a com­mit­tee pre­pared to ad­vance gun con­trol bills, set­ting up floor votes on new mea­sures that go be­yond the ex­pan­sion of fed­eral gun­buyer back­ground checks that Democrats have fo­cused on for years.

Asked about gun leg­is­la­tion Mon­day, Trump de­clined to say when he might roll out a pro­posal: “We are talk­ing about a lot of dif­fer­ent things. But at the same time, we have to pro­tect our Sec­ond Amend­ment very strongly, and we will al­ways do that.”

Sen. Pa­trick Toomey, RPa., who has pre­vi­ously worked with Democrats on gun leg­is­la­tion, told re­porters he had spo­ken to Trump a half-dozen times about pos­si­ble re­sponses to the string of mass shoot­ings with a fo­cus on back­ground checks.

Toomey crafted a back­ground check ex­pan­sion pro­posal in 2013 with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the months af­ter the Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School shoot­ing in New­town, Con­necti­cut, that ul­ti­mately failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Se­nate. That leg­is­la­tion did not go as far as the pend­ing House-passed bill in cov­er­ing a wider va­ri­ety of gun trans­ac­tions, and it’s un­clear if Trump will sup­port some­thing that goes as far as the 2013 lan­guage did.

“He’s been ask­ing thought­ful, rea­son­able questions all along the way and ex­hibit­ing to me a real in­ter­est in ac­com­plish­ing some­thing, but I don’t think it was ever wellde­fined in terms of a pol­icy pre­scrip­tion,” Toomey said. “I think that’s where he’s try­ing to get to.”

AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

Sen. Chuck Schumer ac­cused Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., of be­ing “afraid of this is­sue.”

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