Ryan faces GOP defections on gun proposal

Ryan faces GOP defections on gun proposal
© Greg Nash

Already dealing with threats of another Democratic floor protest, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) is now facing defections from the right on a GOP gun bill that conservatives complain is unconstitutional. 

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The handful of Republican naysayers has raised doubts about whether Ryan can muster enough votes from his own party to pass the gun provision. Backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the GOP legislation was favored by Republican leaders as a more acceptable alternative to Democratic gun-control bills.

But Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), an opponent of the GOP provision, said: “I think it’s dead.”

The gun provision was part of a larger GOP anti-terrorism package that was set to hit the floor on Wednesday. But that vote was postponed to allow GOP lawmakers, returning from the week-long July Fourth recess, more time to study and discuss the package, said Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas). 

“Enough members don’t have enough information,” Sessions told reporters as he left a GOP leadership meeting in the Speaker’s suite. “What we’re trying to do is work toward resolution where we’re all on the same page.”

Sessions said GOP leaders hope to reach a consensus in their conference, but he declined to speculate about when the package might be brought forward.

The House GOP gun proposal would give the Justice Department three days to convince a judge there's probable cause that the prospective buyer would use the weapon in connection with terrorism and stop the sale.

But conservative lawmakers, including several who belong to the far-right House Freedom Caucus, argued that the legislation could violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights, based on what the government anticipates that person might do in the future. 

“If the bill becomes law, it will mark a massive expansion of the government’s ability to restrict gun rights on the basis of precrime—a crime not yet committed,” Freedom Caucus member Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse Judiciary advances warrantless wiretapping reform bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill Ryan sets record for closing down debate in House: report MORE (R-Mich.) posted in a lengthy diatribe on his Facebook page. This bill “is the actualization of dystopian fiction.”

Added Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), another Freedom Caucus member: “If it is a suspected terrorist and we have evidence to that extent, then Logic 101 [suggests] that person should either be in jail or out of the country.”

Other conservative lawmakers opposed to the GOP gun bill included Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). 

Huelskamp lamented that the only reason Ryan planned to bring up the NRA-backed bill was because he had felt pressure following Democrats’s daylong sit-in on the House floor demanding a vote on gun control legislation.

On Tuesday night, Ryan huddled with Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and John Larson (D-Conn.) to find a compromise on gun legislation. But there were no signs of a breakthrough.

"It was a good meeting,” Larson told The Hill after the meeting. Asked if Democrats will get their gun votes, he said only: "We're going to go talk about that with our caucus” on Wednesday.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement that the speaker was glad to meet with Lewis and Larson, but said they have different views on how to prevent gun violence.

“The path ahead on the anti-terrorism package will be discussed and determined by the majority in the coming days,” Strong said.