Democrats Press GOP on Gun Control as Congress Reconvenes

Demonstrators gather on Aug. 7, 2019, to protest after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – With lawmakers returning to Washington after a month-long recess during which three major mass shootings took place across the country, Democrats resumed demands Monday for Republicans to take up gun control legislation.

In the immediate aftermath of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas while Congress was out of town on a scheduled recess last month, Democrats called for the Senate to take up a bill the House passed in February that would expand federal background checks to cover all gun sales, including those conducted online and by unlicensed dealers.

The calls resumed at the end of August after a man killed seven people in a shooting spree along a highway between Midland and Odessa, Texas. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., resisted calls to bring the Senate back from its summer recess early and has said the Senate will not consider legislation that President Donald Trump will not sign.

Despite McConnell’s reluctance, top Democrats on Monday insisted they will keep pressure on Republicans to take up the background check legislation.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote a letter to Trump on Monday asking for his “urgent, personal intervention” on the issue, saying he could swing Republican support if he came out and endorsed the background checks bill.

Schumer said Monday that Trump has an “historic opportunity to save lives” by supporting the House-passed plan.

“Two people in Washington can make sure the background checks bill passes: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell,” Schumer said at a press conference. “It is totally up to them, totally up to them and it is on their shoulders. They can’t escape that responsibility.”

Speaking to reporters, Schumer said he has talked with Trump several times in the past month, but has not gotten a clear indication of what sorts of proposals the president would support. Democrats, including Schumer and Pelosi, expressed frustration that Trump has endorsed sweeping changes to gun laws immediately after shootings, only to back off shortly thereafter.

Republicans in the Senate are generally opposed to the background checks plan, with many instead coalescing around so-called red flag laws, which allow family members, law enforcement, or others to petition a court to restrict a person’s access to guns if they show that person poses a threat to themselves or others.

Even faced with Republican opposition and failed gun legislation in the past, Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he is hopeful that Republicans who face close elections in 2020 might sway McConnell to take up legislation.

McConnell did not mention gun control legislation in a speech from the Senate floor as the chamber came back into session on Monday afternoon, saying his focus will be on passing spending bills ahead of an end-of-month deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

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