A House panel on Tuesday voted to advance new gun legislation, as lawmakers in both parties tried to figure how far President Trump is willing to go on the issue in the wake of last month’s deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio.
The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would set up a federal court process to temporarily seize guns from dangerous people and incentivize states to adopt so-called “red flag” laws , as well as a bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The panel was also weighing legislation that would prevent people convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from getting a gun.
“We are acting because of the urgent need to respond to the daily toll of gun violence in our communities, whether they are mass shootings or not, and whether or not they make national headlines,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and chairman of the committee.
Democrats are also pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up House-passed legislation that would expand background checks to cover virtually all gun sales and to extend the time that federally-licensed dealers must wait to hear back from the FBI before proceeding with a sale.
But Mr. McConnell on Tuesday reiterated his recent comments that he’s still waiting for specific cues from Mr. Trump on what he would be willing to sign into law, as the White House has already issued veto threats for those House-passed bills.
The Kentucky Republican said the White House’s Eric Ueland briefed senators on the topic at their weekly lunch Tuesday.
“They are working on coming up with a proposal that the president will sign,” Mr. McConnell said. “Until that happens, all of this is theatrics.”
Mr. Trump had expressed an interest in doing something on background checks in the wake of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last month that claimed the lives of more than 30 people, but has generally been more focused on the mental health side of the debate.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other advocates made their case at a Tuesday hearing held by the House’s gun violence prevention task force.
“Thousands of people, thousands of children have died since Sen. McConnell first refused to take up our bills,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat. “We will fight on every front — in the courts, in the Congress, and in the court of public opinion to make sure this issue is too hot to handle for the GOP to block.”
But Republicans say they’re wary that any new gun controls could pave the way toward an erosion of Americans’ basic Second Amendment rights.
“What I am not willing to do is support legislation that will do nothing to make us safer and simultaneously infringes on the rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
The gunman in the Odessa, Texas, shooting last month that claimed the lives of seven people was reportedly able to purchase an AR-15-style rifle through a private sale, evading a federal background check that had disclosed a mental health issue that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014, according to The Associated Press.
Other Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing to go further.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke was among the first of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to call for a mandatory government buyback of certain kinds of semiautomatic, military-style firearms.
The gun debate was also raging outside of Washington.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed an executive order directing state agencies to look into whether gun manufacturers that do business with the state adhere to certain requirements like preventing sales to prohibited individuals, and whether financial institutions doing business with the state follow certain gun-related safety requirements.
“We want those who do business with New Jersey to share our values and be committed to ending the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” Mr. Murphy said.
The National Rifle Association is currently in an ongoing legal battle with the state of New York after the gun-rights group accused state officials of discouraging banks and insurance companies from doing business with them.
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