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 McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case 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.

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"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 CicillineTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Democrats criticize FCC for not taking action against DC station broadcasting Russian disinformation 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 McBathDemocratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises The Hill's Campaign Report: Rising Klobuchar, Buttigieg face test in diverse states Conservative women's group rolls out new GOP endorsements for 2020 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 HoyerPelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing House panel approves bill to grant DC statehood Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' 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 TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE has threatened to veto the two House-passed background check bills.

Updated at 12:36 p.m.