Pelosi: US at a ’tipping point’ on guns
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she and fellow Democrats want sweeping gun reforms — not a limited piecemeal approach — and they’re praying that President Trump will pressure GOP leaders in Congress to consider such a package.
“Calmly, prayerfully, hopefully and respectfully, [we] hope that the president will make clear to the Republicans in Congress that we have to move forward — and not just some little bill,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “No, it has to be substantial.
“It might not be everything — it might not be an assault weapon ban — but practically anything short of that is what we would expect.”
Trump upended the congressional debate over gun reform on Wednesday when he used a televised meeting with bipartisan lawmakers at the White House to push for a series of gun control proposals that are strongly opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and most Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Trump urged the lawmakers to approve legislation that would expand background checks to include almost every gun sale; hike the minimum age for buying an assault rifle from 18 to 21; and empower law enforcers to confiscate guns from potentially violent people — even without a court’s approval.
The president also asked Republicans to abandon their effort to nationalize concealed carry rights — the NRA’s top policy priority — as part of a broader package to encourage more thorough reporting to the FBI’s instant background check database. And he encouraged lawmakers to consider a prohibition on assault weapons — a ban he supported as a New York businessman years ago but rejected during the presidential campaign, when he vowed never to buck the NRA.
The unconventional gathering came two weeks after a shooting massacre at a Florida high school, where authorities say a 19-year-old former student with behavioral problems killed 17 people with a military-style rifle.
Trump also asked the lawmakers to load a number of his favored reform provisions into one package — “I like the word comprehensive,” he said — effectively undermining the much narrower approach favored by Republicans. Trump accused those opposed to tougher laws of being cowed by the NRA at the expense of public safety — an astonishing dressing down of the leaders of his own party.
“I think you underestimate the power of the gun lobby,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) warned dryly.
“They have great power over you people; they have less power over me,” Trump responded. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA; you can’t be petrified.”
Republican participants left the meeting saying their positions on guns remain unchanged, leaving plenty of doubts among even the staunchest gun reformers that the GOP-controlled Congress will consider any new limits on guns this year.
Trump staged a similar televised meeting on immigration in January, when he seemed to side with the Democrats on legislation to protect the so-called Dreamers. Just days later, he shifted to the right, insisting on much tougher enforcement provisions and all but dooming a series of immigration bills that failed on the Senate floor last month.
Pelosi was quick to acknowledge Trump’s history of mixed messages and unpredictability, particularly in the immigration fight. But the gun reform debate, she argued, is being governed by a different urgency — a dynamic driven by the thousands of student protestors who are demanding action from lawmakers across the country.
“I think this is different. … On this, it’s life and death right away,” Pelosi said.
“These young people, with their knowledge and savvy about social media, the articulate eloquence that they have put forth about what they saw and how they don’t want this to happen to anyone else — we’re really at a tipping point on this,” she said.
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