House GOP to punt gun bill

House GOP to punt gun bill
© Moriah Ratner

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments MORE (R-Wis.) and his GOP leadership team on Monday decided to punt on any gun-related legislation until after the long summer recess.

The latest shootings across the country led Republican leaders to believe that debating and voting on contentious gun control bills now would only inflame an already violent situation.

The decision means the House, which has been wrestling with gun control legislation for weeks, will not consider bills to prevent suspected terrorists from obtaining guns until at least after its seven-week recess, which is set to begin at the end of this week.

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“Given the events … we need to take a step back and show some real calmness and some real leadership and reflect on what’s happening in this country, and pursue the gun issue at a further date,” Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), the freshman class representative to GOP leadership, told The Hill after a meeting in Ryan’s office.

Two black men were killed by police in separate incidents in Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota last week. Both incidents were caught on video and added to nationwide anger over violence involving police and minority communities.

The debate experienced another disturbing turn last Thursday night, when a man attacked the Dallas police, killing five officers from an elevated position in the city's downtown.

President Obama has invited congressional leaders to travel to Dallas with him Tuesday to honor the fallen officers. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will travel on Air Force One with him, but Ryan is unable to make the trip.

“He was invited to attend, and would like to be there, but we could not make the travel work,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. “He addressed this tragedy on Friday and will continue to talk about these issues in the days ahead.”

The GOP gun control legislation was already in trouble.

Last week, Ryan faced dozens of GOP defections on a leadership-backed gun control measure in response to last month’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 more. The far-right Freedom Caucus came out in opposition to the bill, which made it tougher for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Conservatives argued that terrorist watchlists often wrongly include people and that the law would thus infringe on the Second Amendment. 

“I think it’s dead,” conservative Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) told The Hill last week.

At Monday’s leadership meeting, lawmakers briefly discussed the shooting earlier in the day at a Michigan courthouse that killed two bailiffs and injured a deputy sheriff.

This is the final week the House is in session before lawmakers leave town for the presidential conventions and to campaign for their own congressional races. They won’t return to Washington until after Labor Day.

Democrats last month held a sit-in to demand action on gun violence following the Orlando shooting. They have threatened to take additional actions to force Ryan's hand on gun control.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is still urging votes on the pair of bills the Democrats have been promoting heavily since the Orlando shooting. 

One would expand background checks ahead of gun purchases; the other would empower the FBI to bar firearm sales to those on the agency's terrorist watchlists. Both are sponsored by Republican Rep. Peter King (N.Y.).

"They're Republican bills, bipartisan bills. Ninety percent of America agrees on them, [and] heaven knows why they're not bringing them to the floor," Hoyer said Monday. "They'll pass, handily, in my opinion."

— Mike Lillis contributed to this story.