The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have brought a new wave of attention to a gun control bill that was passed by the House more than five months ago — and has been stalled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ever since. Two New York lawmakers, a Republican and a Democrat, have joined a growing chorus in Congress calling for McConnell to take action.
“It would save a whole lot of lives. A whole lot of lives,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday about House Resolution 8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.
“We have to update the law and make America safer,” Schumer added.
Schumer was joined at the Long Island press conference by Rep. Peter King, a Republican, who said politics must be put aside for this legislation. “This should not be in any way a partisan issue, even though too often it becomes that,” King said.
The Democratic-controlled House passed H.R. 8 in February in a 240-190 vote, with eight Republicans and all but two Democrats supporting it. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., would only allow person-to-person gun sales if a background check can be conducted. This would close loopholes for certain kinds of gun sales — such as those at gun shows, over the internet or from private dealers — that are currently completed without background checks, potentially putting guns in the hands of people who would otherwise be prohibited from owning them.
Schumer and King argued that the bill would only keep guns away from people with criminal records or mental health problems, and is not a sweeping restriction on gun ownership for most Americans.
“It’s not gonna answer all of it, it may only answer a small part, we don’t know,” King said of the problem of gun violence. “But we do know [the bill] will save lives, and it will start to make it harder and harder for people who are the most dangerous to obtain weapons.”
McConnell has not taken any action on the bill since it passed the House in February. He has also taken no action on another bill passed that month, H.R. 1112, which would extend the time federal authorities have to complete a background check for gun sales.
The White House said in February that it opposes H.R. 8 and President Trump would likely veto it. While the president called for “strong background checks” in a tweet Monday, he made no mention of the legislation when he addressed the nation later that day.
In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, McConnell offered “prayers” to the victims and families, but announced no action on the legislation. McConnell issued a statement Monday that made no mention of H.R. 8 or other gun control measures, instead saying he encouraged “bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our communities without infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights.”
CBS News polling shows that since 2014, more than half of Americans have consistently backed stricter gun laws. A 2018 poll found 75% of Americans, and 66% of Republicans, favor stronger background checks.
After the shooting, Democrats called out McConnell for inaction.
“The House passed HR8, a Bipartisan Background Checks Act, *5 months ago* and the Senate has yet to vote on it,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted to McConnell. “It was one of our 1st major priorities after ending the gov shutdown. You’ve been sitting on it since February giving bogus excuses. Care to explain the people why?”
Spokespeople for McConnell referred to his statement from Monday when contacted by CBS News, and did not say if McConnell plans to allow a Senate vote on the bill.
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