In the wake of the mass shootings that killed 31 in Texas and Ohio, gun violence victims joined House Democratic leaders Tuesday and urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote and pass expanded gun-sale background checks.
More than 9,000 people have died so far this year as a result of gun violence, including more than 250 in mass shootings. Twenty-two people were killed by a gunman at an El Paso Walmart on Aug. 3; nine were fatally shot hours later in Dayton.
“How many Americans will lose their lives, or their loved ones, to rampant gun violence before the United States Senate takes action?” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said at a Capitol Hill news conference, which included several other Democrats and those whose lives have been directly affected by deadly shootings.
“Enough is enough. It is time to act,” said Hoyer, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 5th District.
Among the other speakers was 18-year-old Jaxon O’Mara, who attended a high school in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, when a gunman shot and killed classmate Jaelyn Willey, 16.
“I’m here today to represent the young people all across America who had their lives ripped apart by gun violence,” she said. “I am here today to represent the young people who want a change. And I’m here today to tell Senator McConnell that it’s time to take immediate action on gun violence.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 12th District, said she has been hearing from her constituents that they want something done. She noted that a mother told her that her daughter was starting kindergarten this fall, and the mother had wondered if she should purchase a bulletproof backpack.
The woman told Dingell that her daughter is on the autistic scale, and that she’s worried the girl would never stay quiet if something happened at her school. She’s “scared to death” something could happen to her child, Dingell recounted.
“‘You have to do something. You have to do something,'” Dingell said, quoting the woman.
Other lawmakers who called on the Senate to vote on a House background-check measure passed earlier this year included Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 8th District; and Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 4th District.
Brown has a bill that would raise the legal age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.
Last week, McConnell said he was open to considering background check legislation, but he has not yet endorsed a specific bill. While Democrats have urged McConnell to cut short the August recess to come back and deal with gun bills, McConnell said they will deal with proposals when they return next month.
The Senate majority leader has also indicated a willingness to take up “red flag” legislation, which would help states establish the legal framework for taking guns away from people who may be a harm to themselves or others.
Several of the people who urged McConnell to take action on Tuesday noted that mass shootings and are not merely statistics and matters for debate. They involve the lives of loved ones who died due to gunfire.
The sister of Dr. Wendy Edmonds, Sylvia Frasier, was one of the 12 killed in a 2013 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
“We suffered permanent, sudden, brutal … disconnection from Sylvia,” Edmonds said, noting she cries every time she hears about another mass shooting. “I cry because I know the pain. And that pain never goes away.”
In addition to urging Senate action, Hoyer said the House Judiciary Committee will be meeting soon to consider new gun legislation.
President Trump on Tuesday reiterated his support for background checks and said he believes McConnell wants to get something done. But like McConnell, he has not committed to supporting specific legislation.
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