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 McConnellBiden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights 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.
"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 ThompsonVirginia Democrat introduces tax credit for electric commercial vehicles House Democrats introduce bill to close existing gun loopholes and prevent mass shootings Giffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the task force, and 17 other senior members of the group, including Reps. David CicillineDavid CicillineSenators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats seek to cool simmering tensions Hillicon Valley —Apple is not a monopoly, judge rules MORE (R.I.), a member of House leadership; Jason CrowJason CrowThe United States must lead the way on artificial intelligence standards Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates MORE (Colo.), a military veteran; and Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathBiden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo Early redistricting plans show GOP retrenching for long haul Draft Georgia congressional lines target McBath, shore up Bourdeaux 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 HoyerFeehery: Build back bipartisan Bottom line On The Money — Presented by NRHC — Breaking down the sluggish September jobs report 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 TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE has threatened to veto the two House-passed background check bills.
Updated at 12:36 p.m.