Democratic leadership is again calling for immediate action on gun control legislation after another mass shooting in America left at least seven people dead.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined a frustrated chorus of Democrats mounting a push against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican leadership to take up gun control legislation after a Saturday rampage in West Texas left at least seven people dead and added fuel to the debate on gun violence in America. The calls to action on Saturday were reminiscent of those made by Democrats in early August after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in less than 24 hours killed 31 people.
“Every day, the epidemic of gun violence inflicts a devastating toll in communities in every corner of our country, forcing far too many to endure heartbreak and tragedy,” Pelosi said in a statement on Saturday. “The Republican Senate must end its obstruction and finally pass the commonsense, bipartisan, House-passed gun violence prevention legislation that the country is demanding.
On Friday, a tweet from the California Democrat’s “Team Pelosi” Twitter account named McConnell, saying, “Gun violence requires immediate action, but Mitch McConnell is refusing to help the people.” CNN has reached out to McConnell’s office for comment.
Schumer in a Saturday tweet also called for an end to gun violence and for McConnell to have the Senate take up the House background check bill once Congress returns. The bill, which passed the House earlier this year in a 240-190 vote vote but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, gained renewed attention following the Texas and Ohio shootings.
The House Judiciary Committee had scheduled to return from August recess a week early to mark up gun legislation, but postponed the meeting because several lawmakers on the committee represent areas of Florida where Hurricane Dorian was projected to hit.
Congress has long struggled to pass gun control legislation, even in the aftermath of a tragedy.
2020 Democrats call for action
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed McConnell in a tweet, telling the Senate majority leader, “Time’s up.”
“Let’s vote on gun safety legislation NOW. Every day you wait, more tragedies happen,” the Massachusetts senator tweeted Saturday. “Do something, Senator McConnell. America is done waiting for you.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she wanted lawmakers “to go back to work in the Senate weeks ago to pass the bills to start fixing this.”
“They didn’t. No more of the same playbook: (1) promises made; (2) NRA meeting; (3) promises broken. We need to act,” Klobuchar tweeted Saturday.
California Sen. Kamala Harris said the nation needs gun safety reform, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called out the National Rifle Association and criticized America as not having “done more to stop this violence.”
“It’s unacceptable that untold numbers of communities elsewhere were victimized by gun violence today too,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “We are not powerless to act. We can stop this carnage by passing commonsense laws, like gun licensing, that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who should not have them.”
Candidates former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke also weighed in following the tragedy in their home state.
Castro criticized Republicans, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott, for their “happy talk” promising to look into gun violence legislation but never taking action on the issue. He called Trump’s past statements expressing interest in universal background checks “the biggest lies the President has told.”
“The biggest lies that the President has told include that he would do something about universal background checks. He said that twice after Parkland and then after El Paso and Dayton,” Castro said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “He’s gone back on his word. Those are the biggest things that count for this president.”
O’Rourke expressed his frustration bluntly on Sunday, saying, “This is f***ed up,” while live with CNN.
O’Rourke told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that “thoughts and prayers” have “done nothing” to curb rampant shootings in the country.
“A hundred killed daily in the United States of America. We’re averaging about 300 mass shootings a year. No other country comes close. So yes, this is f***ed up,” O’Rourke said. He used the same expletive to describe the mass shooting Saturday at an event in Virginia.
Trump administration responds
Speaking to reporters after returning to the White House Sunday from Camp David, Trump called the shooting “a very, very sad situation,” but said the tragedy didn’t immediately impact what was happening in Congress.
“This really hasn’t changed anything, we’re doing a package,” he said. “We’re looking at a lot of different things, a lot of different bills, ideas, concepts. For the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it. So it’s a big problem. It’s a mental problem. It’s a big problem.”
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters before traveling to Poland on Saturday that the administration is “determined to work with leaders in both parties in Congress to take steps that we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country.”
Trump initially signaled support for strengthening background checks on firearm purchases after the early August shootings, but he appeared to distance himself from those positions after consulting with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and conservative allies. Trump has previously expressed support for tighter gun restrictions – including after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school – only to back off after pressure from the NRA.
The President tweeted on August 22 that he had “a very good meeting on preventing mass shootings” and that “talks are ongoing w/ both Republicans & Democrats” without specifying any potential policy direction.
So-called red flag gun legislation, though, has garnered some support among members of the Republican Party. Such a law enables those who have seen warning signs to seek a court order to intervene and temporarily prevent someone who is in crisis from having access to a firearm.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida – who served as the state’s governor during the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – said on “State of the Union” Sunday that “this is an issue about how do we keep Americans safe? And so I’m going to do everything I can. “
Asked if gun reform is doable upon Congress’ return, Scott said he’s hopeful. Pointing to legislation passed after the Parkland massacre, Scott said, “The biggest thing we did was this red flag law that says that, if you are threatening harm to yourself or somebody else, through due process, through the court system, you don’t have access to any weapons, not just a gun, but any weapons.”
He added later: “I believe in the Second Amendment. I don’t want to take guns away from law-abiding Americans. But I do want to solve problems. So that’s why I think we ought to look at really what we did in Florida, because that really works.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Paul Leblanc, Kate Sullivan and Caroline Kelly contributed to this story.