House Democrats request sit-down with McConnell to talk guns

House Democrats request sit-down with McConnell to talk guns

Top Democrats on gun reform are seeking a meeting with the figure they deem the single greatest hurdle to adopting tougher firearms laws: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Schumer praises choice of Defense inspector general to oversee corporate lending fund MORE (R-Ky.).

In a letter sent to McConnell on Wednesday, leaders of the House Democratic task force on gun violence prevention requested an in-person meeting with the Kentucky Republican to discuss a pair of proposals designed to strengthen the background checks conducted prior to gun sales.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The American people sent us to Washington to get things done," the lawmakers wrote. "That includes putting an end to the epidemic of gun violence."

The letter was signed by Rep. Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonPelosi digs in on impeachment rules fight House votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the task force, and 17 other senior members of the group, including Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineLocal news outlets struggle to survive coronavirus fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (R.I.), a member of House leadership; Jason CrowJason CrowTrump set to confront his impeachment foes Democratic impeachment manager shares quote from "Harry Potter's" Dumbledore during trial Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' MORE (Colo.), a military veteran; and Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathBrady PAC endorses Biden, plans to spend million in 2020 Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Warren endorsed by Black Lives Matter co-founder's Black to the Future Action Fund MORE (Ga.), a freshman whose teenage son was killed in a shooting seven years ago.

Citing shooting statistics from McConnell's home state of Kentucky, the Democrats stressed that gun violence knows no regional bounds.

"Gun violence should not be a political issue," they wrote.

The letter marks the latest Democratic effort to keep the heat on McConnell to consider gun reform legislation in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which combined led to 31 deaths earlier this month.

Last week, Thompson spearheaded a letter to McConnell urging the Republican leader to reconvene the Senate amid the August recess for the purpose of taking up background check bills. And on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House MORE (D-Md.) led a small group of Democrats in returning to the Capitol to deliver the same message.

McConnell has declined those entreaties, accusing Democrats of trying to exploit the dual tragedies for political reasons.

"If we did that, we would just have people scoring points and nothing would happen," McConnell said Thursday in an interview with Louisville radio station WHAS. "There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on. If we do it prematurely it will just be another frustrating experience."

Instead, McConnell has vowed to have "a discussion" on gun reform when Congress returns to Washington next month, adding that background checks would be "front and center" of the debate. He has not promised to bring any gun bills to the floor, however, leaving Democrats wary that Senate GOP leaders, long opposed to Second Amendment restrictions, are delaying the process in hopes the public outcry that followed the recent shootings subsides.

Democrats, meanwhile, are trumpeting the successes of the current background check system. They noted in Wednesday's letter that "every day, background checks stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer."

But they're also warning of loopholes allowing unlicensed sellers to transfer firearms without similar screenings.

House Democrats are pressing for action on two proposals: one to expand federal background checks to include most unlicensed gun sellers, and another to extend the window for the FBI to screen prospective buyers. Both bills passed the House in February along largely partisan lines.

"We are committed to finding bipartisan solutions and hope you will make this issue a priority in the Senate," Thompson and the Democrats wrote to McConnell.

Thompson's office on Wednesday said McConnell's office never responded to last week's letter. When reached for comment, McConnell's office made no mention of either letter and instead pointed to the GOP leader's remarks from Thursday's radio interview, while noting that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE has threatened to veto the two House-passed background check bills.

Updated at 12:36 p.m.