Speaking to reporters, McConnell said he had a briefing from Eric Ueland, the White House director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, who provided them with an update on what the administration was considering.
“What I’ve said consistently is let’s see if we can actually make a law here and making a law when you have divided government is challenging. We all have different points of views. My members know the very simple fact that to make a law you have to have a presidential signature,” McConnell said.
“They are working on coming up with a proposal that the president will sign. Until that happens, all of this is theatrics,” he added.
McConnell later said, “These horrendous shootings, in my opinion, deserve a response. I hope we can get something that can actually become the law of the United States of America.”
The Senate majority leader then went on to reiterate that he was waiting for the White House to clarify its position on what the president is willing to sign when asked further questions about a bill on background checks. Following multiple mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that together left nearly 40 people dead, McConnell had faced pressure to consider measures to address gun violence in the Senate including the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed in the Democrat-controlled House in February, and the expanded background check proposal pushed by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
“We’re waiting for something we know if it passed would actually become law and until the White House gives us some indication of what the president is willing to sign, we’re waiting to see what it looks like,” McConnell said.
In another question about mandated background checks for all commercial gun sales, McConnell said, “What I’ve said is we’re waiting to see how we can actually achieve something on this issue. I’m going to wait and assess the proposal that actually could become law.”
“At that point, I’ll be happy to explain my vote one way or the other,” he added.
In a previous interview with conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell was asked, “Why won’t you bring forward their [House of Representatives’] background check bill?” He was referring to the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 which will require most person-to-person firearm transfers be done through a licensed gun dealer, who then will have to conduct a background check based on current law.
The bill allows for exceptions for transfers between family members, or use in purposes such as hunting, target shooting, and self-defense (pdf). The legislation hopes to close a gap in the current law that allows for unlicensed sellers to sell their guns in private sales such as online or in gun-shows without conducting a background check on the purchaser.
“Where there’s discussion about what to do on the gun issue in the wake of these horrendous shootings, I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I’d be happy to put it on the floor,” McConnell told Hewitt.
Trump has repeatedly said his administration was working on background checks and considered other measures like red flag laws to curb gun violence.
“We’re working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks. We can close up the gaps. We can do things that are very good and things that, frankly, gun owners want to have done,” Trump said.
He also noted that he was talking to people from all sides including Democrats, Republicans, the NRA, and gun owners to come up with a “meaningful” solution.