House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is in a unique position in the middle of the gun debate, which has intensified with the return of Congress after another month of deadly mass shootings.
Scalise is still coping with bullet wounds from a shooter who sprayed a ballfield in Alexandria in 2017, injuring him and four others, as lawmakers practiced for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Before this year’s game, he acknowledged he still struggles to forgive the gunman, who was shot and killed by police officers at the scene.
As a result of the shooting, he’s undergone numerous surgeries and still walks with a cane, which he had with him as he spoke with reporters Tuesday night.
Scalise was among the GOP lawmakers who met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday to go over gun legislation. And while Scalise has been a victim of gunfire, he remains skeptical of some of the proposals that are again coming before lawmakers.
“The real issue has to be focused on solving problems that have caused some of these shootings to happen,” Scalise told reporters. “There are many people who are trying to take advantage of these crises just to promote their own gun control agenda.”
Scalise, like many other Republicans, is critical of the universal background check bill approved earlier this year by the House. Democratic leaders have repeatedly called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate, which he’s indicated he won’t do.
“It would just make it harder for law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and we’re not going there,” Scalise said.
The Louisiana lawmaker praised Trump for meeting with Democrats and Republicans, as he considers what legislation he’ll support. He said the president has been talking to lawmakers who are “open to addressing real problems.”
Following his meeting with Scalise and others, the president met on Wednesday with Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Joe Manchin, D-WV. The lawmakers said the president told them to expect to know this week whether the White House will support expanded background checks and any other measures.
Toomey and Manchin are co-sponsors of background check legislation that isn’t as broad as the House bill. It has been brought up in the past, but didn’t get enough support to pass.
As for Scalise, he said he’ll continue to work for a balance between gun safety and the rights of gun owners.
“Making the current system work better to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, who shouldn’t be able to buy a gun, while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens — that’s where the focus needs to be,” he said.
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