Gore keeps up pressure on House Republicans
May 27, 1999
Web posted at: 2:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 27) -- Vice President Al Gore traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday to keep the pressure on congressional Republicans to quickly pass anti-gun measures approved by the Senate last week.
Gore said the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives are delaying action on the bill not out of concern over the bill's details but for political reasons.
Vice President Al Gore was on Capitol Hill Thursday
"It is because some within the Republican caucus are so responsive to the NRA (National Rifle Association). They're are hoping against hope that if they can slow walk this whole measure, then the American people will lose the sense of urgency that is now so obvious and so palpable," he said. "Well, they're wrong about that. The American people want to see action and they want it now."
The vice president spoke at a news conference with House and Senate Democrats who had hoped to capitalize on the momentum and public interest built during last week's heated gun control debate in the Senate and force the full House to consider the proposals before its Memorial Day vacation, which begins Friday.
But the House voted Thursday to adjourn for the holiday. The House Republican leadership has said they support the gun control legislation passed by the Senate but have set a schedule for cautious consideration of the provisions and a vote in mid-June.
"There is a Second Amendment, there is a fundamental right that we're dealing with and therefore we should move expeditiously but not in a stampede," Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday. "We're going to do this and we're going to do it right."
Gore's presence on the Hill was intended by Democrats to remind voters that the controversial "gun show loophole" amendment to the Senate's juvenile justice bill only passed due to Gore's tie-breaking vote last week.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) emphasized that point by noting that a spokesman for Texas Gov. George W. Bush said Thursday that if Bush was president, his vice president would have voted to oppose the amendment. Bush is the leading candidate for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) said leadership and action were needed during what he termed a national crisis to deal with the issue of youth violence.
"Thus far, the House has been unable to act. It has sometimes seemed paralyzed by a fear of moving too fast," he said. "This is an inexplicable time for our leaders to be fearful. This is a time when our leaders themselves must take strong action to dispel the fear that has gripped our entire nation."
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt
Both Gore and Gephardt acknowledged that gun control issues are one facet of the problem of youth violence. Gore said the entertainment industry must voluntarily show self-restraint and better parenting is needed.
"But the gun issue is one thing that all these tragedies all have in common," Gore said.
The main point of contention is the "gun show loophole," in which background checks are not currently required at gun shows. The battle to include a Democratic amendment requiring non-licensed dealer at gun shows to perform background checks almost derailed the entire bill in the Senate.
Republicans originally rejected the measure, but after a heated debate some Republicans reversed their opposition and moved to find a compromise. Eventually the Senate voted 50-50, with Gore casting the deciding vote, to approve a modified version of the Democratic amendment.
Appearing with Gore, Gephardt, and about a dozen other congressional Democrats was a woman planning to testify on Thursday before the House Judiciary crime subcommittee, which is discussing the specifics of the Senate bill.
Byrl Phillips-Taylor, a Richmond, Virginia, woman whose son Scott was killed by a classmate 10 years ago using a gun, urged Congress to close the loophole.
"Loopholes lead to bullet holes in our children," she said at the Democratic press conference.
Clutching a photograph of her son, Scott, she told reporters that he had been killed eight years ago by a "classmate with a grudge" and an AK-47. Scott, 17, was lured by the classmate from his place of work and shot six times.
Also set to testify before the House subcommittee were NRA officials, the father of one of the murdered Columbine High School students and a Denver trauma surgeon who worked on some of the* victims of those shootings.
Gore and Gephardt also said they would be happy to pass the bill by the Senate but both said the bill could use some additions. Gore did specify what he thought should be added but Gephardt specifically mentioned the issue of age limits on the purchase of firearms.
"We have age limits on when you can drive in this country, we have age limits on when drink alcoholic beverages and I think, if we're talking about gun safety and child safety, I think that's something that might be looked at."
But Gephardt said he wanted to get something done and hoped that Republicans hear from their constituents during the break and return to pass the bill.