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 McConnellObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy 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 ThompsonHouse Democrats unveil green tax package The Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the task force, and 17 other senior members of the group, including Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineClark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Races heat up for House leadership posts The folly of Cicilline's 'Glass-Steagall for Tech' MORE (R.I.), a member of House leadership; Jason CrowJason CrowClark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Trump-Afghan deal passes key deadline, but peace elusive Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (Colo.), a military veteran; and Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathThis week: House returns for pre-election sprint House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention 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 HoyerHouse Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep 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 TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE has threatened to veto the two House-passed background check bills.

Updated at 12:36 p.m.