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House committee pushes forward on gun control bills as Senate and Trump waver

Pressure for Congress to act on guns

The House Judiciary Committee voted to send several gun control bills to the House floor for a full vote on Tuesday, even as the Senate and President Trump vacillate on support for less restrictive proposals.

The committee meeting, known as a markup, came after three deadly mass shootings in the month of August that killed 38 people in total. House Democrats urged the Senate to hold an emergency session to vote on a bill passed by the House in February which would implement universal background checks, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell resisted the call.

McConnell recently said that he is waiting on Mr. Trump to signal which gun control measure, if any, he supports, before acting in the Senate. He said that he would bring a background checks bill to the Senate floor only if it had Mr. Trump's support and he was certain "we will pass it and it'll become law."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McConnell said that Democratic tactics were "theatrics," given that Mr. Trump has not said that he would sign any of the gun control legislation under consideration in the House.

"We are working on coming up with a proposal that the president will sign. Until that happens, all of this is theatrics," McConnell said.

Mr. Trump has sent mixed signals about whether he would support background checks. After two shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in early August, the president tweeted that "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks," although he suggested that such legislation could be paired with a bill on immigration.

However, Mr. Trump insisted later that month that the U.S. already has "very, very strong background checks" for gun purchases, noting many of his supporters "are strong believers in the Second Amendment." Mr. Trump met with National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre several times.

Mr. Trump told reporters at the beginning of September that he was speaking with several lawmakers about potential gun restrictions, but did not offer any concrete positions.

"Well, I've been speaking to them," the president said. "I've been speaking to a lot of senators. We've been speaking to a lot of House members, a lot of Republicans, a lot of Democrats. And people want to do something. So we're going to see."

Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is working with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia on bipartisan legislation to expand background checks, said Tuesday he is still "hopeful" that the Senate can pass a bill on background checks.

"I think the idea of having background checks on commercial gun sales makes all the sense in the world and is broadly supported. I don't think there is any reason to give up yet. And I don't intend to," Toomey said. He added that the president is "very interested" and "learning about this issue."

Here are the gun control bills the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve on Tuesday:

  • H.R. 1236, the "Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019": This bill would provide grants to help state, tribal and local efforts to remove firearms from individuals determined to be a danger to themselves or others. Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws are more commonly known as "red flag" laws.
  • H.R. 1186, the "Keep Americans Safe Act": This bill would regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices, such as a magazine or belt, making it illegal to import, sell, manufacture or possess such devices.
  • H.R. 2708, the "Disarm Hate Act": This bill would prevent a person convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from obtaining a firearm.
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