U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday, Sept. 3, that he is waiting on the White House to clarify its position on legislation to address gun violence, and that he would be willing to bring a given bill to the floor if President Trump is willing to sign that bill into law.
In an 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?”
Hewitt was referring to a bill passed by the Democrat-majority House in February, which would require background checks on all firearm sales in the United States, including those between strangers who meet online or at gun shows.
“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.
Recent shootings include the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that together killed 31 people, as well as the deadly shooting rampage in western Texas on Saturday, Aug. 30 that killed seven people.
McConnell’s comments appeared to relate to what he said in a radio interview in early August.
“The key to this honestly is making a law, not making a point … The way you make a law right now is that it has to pass the House, it has to get 60 votes in the Senate and it has to be signed by President Trump,” he said at the time, according to The Associated Press. Trump has threatened to veto the House legislation on background checks, Reuters previously reported.
McConnell predicted in the August interview that red flag laws and background check legislation would be “front and center” in the discussion on potential legislation to curb gun violence. Red flag laws would allow law enforcement or family members to petition a court for an order to temporarily confiscate guns from those who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.
“The administration is in the process of studying what they are prepared to support, if anything, and I expect to get an answer to that next week,” McConnell told Hewitt. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”
The full House and Senate are both on a six-week recess and are scheduled to reconvene on Sept. 9.
Reuters reported that a White House official, Marc Short, said on Sept. 2 that authorities had drafted legislation that would speed the death penalty for those who have committed mass murder, and it would be part of a package of gun legislation that the White House intends to propose to Congress.
Trump said on Sunday, Aug. 31, that any gun legislation must protect public safety whilst ensuring the constitutional right to bear arms. He also appeared to dismiss the effectiveness of background checks in preventing gun violence.
“For the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five [shootings] going back even five or six or seven years … as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it,” Trump told reporters. “So it’s a big problem. It’s a mental problem. It’s a big problem.”
Trump also indicated the need to keep guns out of those who are “dangerous and deranged.”
“It would be wonderful to say ‘eliminate,’ but we want to substantially reduce the violent crime … This includes strong measures to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals, and substantial reforms to our nation’s broken mental health system,” Trump said, according to The Hill.
Trump had earlier said on Aug. 21: ” I want guns to be in the hands of people that are mentally stable. And those people, I want them to easily be able to get a gun. But people that are insane, people that are sick up here, I don’t want them to be able to get a gun.
“We also have to remember the gun doesn’t pull the trigger, a person does. And we have great mental illness,” he added.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.