Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no plans to call the Senate back to vote on laws beefing up gun background checks despite demands for immediate action from more than 200 mayors, including those of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, two cities recovering from mass shootings.
McConnell is waiting to hear back from senators who chair key committees whom he has directed to work with Democrats to examine ways of preventing more mass murders.
“We’re going to have these bipartisan discussions and, when we get back (Sept. 9), hopefully be able to come back and actually pass something,” he said. “I want to make a law not just see this political sparring going on endlessly which never produces a result.”
A lone gunman is accused of killing 22 people and injured dozens more at an El Paso Walmart Saturday. In an unrelated attack hours later, a gunman wielding an assault rifle killed nine and 26 injured in an entertainment district in Dayton early Sunday morning.
“We’ve never dealt with anything like this,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said. “Whatever can be done to preclude or prohibit or prevent any acts like this evil needs to be (pursued).”
McConnell spoke shortly after the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a letter signed by the leaders of 225 cities, including Margo and Nan Whaley of Dayton, urging McConnell to reconvene the Senate immediately and approve two House-passed bills that would beef up background checks for gun purchases.
“It’s no surprise to us that we have 225 bipartisan mayors that have signed on to this letter asking McConnell to come back and do his job, something that we do every day,” Whaley, a Democrat, told reporters during a press call regarding the letter. “We do our job so we want the Senate to do theirs.”
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) would prohibit most person-to-person firearm transfers unless a background check can be conducted. It aims to close a potential loophole allowing the transfer of firearms without a background check at gun shows or between individuals.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 1112) would extend to at least 10 days the amount of time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before the sale can proceed. Currently, they can make the sale if they haven’t received a response in three days.
Both bills passed with almost every Democrat and a handful of Republicans supporting the measures. But some analysts say it’s doubtful tougher screening would have prevented either massacre.
The White House issued a veto threat on both bills when they passed in February.
But President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is talking with congressional leaders and considering tougher background checks for gun buyers as lawmakers coalesce around the idea of “red flag” laws after the mass shootings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday urged Trump to take the remarkable step granted by the Constitution of convening Congress to address gun violence.
“This extraordinary moment in our history requires all of us to take extraordinary action to save lives,” she wrote in a letter to the president.
Protesters have gathered outside McConnell’s house, blasting him for not doing more to bring the bills to the Senate floor. But the Senate majority leader told the Louisville radio station he won’t be intimidated.
“Not a chance,” he said.