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House Democrats request sit-down with McConnell to talk guns

The Hill logo The Hill 4 days ago Mike Lillis

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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 McConnell (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 Thompson (D-Calif.), the chairman of the task force, and 17 other senior members of the group, including Reps. David Cicilline (R.I.), a member of House leadership; Jason Crow (Colo.), a military veteran; and Lucy McBath (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 Hoyer (D-Md.) led a small group of Democrats in returning to the Capitol to deliver the same message.

a man wearing glasses: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has accused Democrats of exploiting the recent mass shootings for political gain. © The Hill Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has accused Democrats of exploiting the recent mass shootings for political gain. 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; another to extend the window for the FBI to screen prospective buyers.

"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.

The GOP leader's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Democrats' request for a meeting.

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