Dems push for US gun safety bills; GOP legislation in limbo

2017-10-03 13:10
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

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Washington — Democrats are renewing calls for gun safety legislation after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, but their pleas are falling on deaf ears in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Meanwhile, GOP legislation aimed at loosening gun rules faces an uncertain future.

Before the shooting that killed at least 59 people — the worst mass shooting in modern US history — House GOP leaders had been moving forward with bills to ease regulations on gun silencers and allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons to other states.

Republicans have been upbeat about prospects for legislation, but no votes on either bill were scheduled as of Monday.

Democrats seized on the violence in Nevada to demand tougher gun restrictions.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Congress must pass "laws that help prevent guns, especially the most dangerous guns, from falling into the wrong hands".

Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn, who favours gun control, said it was "time for Congress to get off its ass and do something".

In an outdoor news conference, former Arizona Rep Gabrielle Giffords, grievously wounded in a 2011 attack, turned to the Capitol, raised her fist and said, "The nation is counting on you."

But no action was expected, as other mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida, and even attacks on lawmakers, failed to unite Congress on any legislative response.

A bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate four years ago, and since then Republicans have usually pointed to mental health legislation when questioned about the appropriate congressional response to gun violence.

Tighten up gun laws

Instead, Republicans have been pushing a pair of NRA-backed bills to loosen firearms restrictions. A Republican-led House committee last month backed the silencer bill by Rep Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who said it would help hunters protect their hearing. Democrats scoffed, noting that the bill also would allow more armour-piercing ammunition.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence to recommend legislation. A group of Democratic lawmakers asked Ryan to remove the silencer bill from the House calendar indefinitely.

Ryan ordered the flags of the Capitol to fly at half-staff, and issued a statement saying, "The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers." But the speaker has shown no interest in legislation to tighten up gun laws.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, he said Congress needs to fund mental health reforms. "But if you're saying that this Republican Congress is going to infringe upon Second Amendment rights, we're not going to do that," he said.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, would allow any gun owner with a state-issued concealed carry permit to conceal a handgun in any state that allows concealed carry.

Hudson said the bill would allow gun owners to "travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state codes or onerous civil suits".


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