Pressure Mounts on Sen. McConnell to Act on Gun Violence

September 4, 2019

Pressure is mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take action on gun violence as the U.S. continues to grapple with a wave of deadly mass shootings.

"McConnell has a decision now: to act and support the American people, or to not act and get voted out in 2020," said Kyleanne Hunter, the vice president of programs at the Brady Campaign, a gun control advocacy group.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post published a full page editorial titled "Do Something, Mr. McConnell," which urged the senior Senator from Kentucky to put gun control legislation to a vote. The editorial also listed the hundreds of names of mass shooting victims since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

The call for action comes after a series of mass shootings killed more than three dozen people in August. The string of gun violence began in El Paso, Texas where a white supremacist killed 22 people at a Walmart. Less than a day after the El Paso attack, nine people were killed in Dayton, Ohio. This past Saturday, seven people were killed and 22 injured in Midland, Texas after a man drove around firing at passing pedestrians and motorists.

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The Washington Post Editorial Board's full-page editorial calling on Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans to act. The Washington Post

"Inaction right now is saying that you're ok with the status quo of 100 people being killed by gun violence every single day," Hunter said. "And that is unacceptable."

On Tuesday, McConnell reiterated during an interview that he would bring gun control legislation to a vote if the bill was supported by President Trump. "If the President took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I'd be happy to put it on the floor," he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

After the El Paso and Dayton shooting, Trump said he was willing to consider strengthening background check laws. The president, however, has largely walked back his position, saying most recently on Saturday that "as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it" and that gun violence is "a mental problem."

McConnell said he expects to hear from Trump on the issue next week. In the meantime, however, multiple bipartisan background check bills that have already passed the House remain in legislative limbo.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed on Monday that the Midland shooter had failed a federal background check. Citing anonymous sources, ABC News later reported that the gunman then exploited a regulatory loophole, which allowed him to privately purchase a weapon despite being previously barred. Such a loophole would have been addressed through H.R. 8, one of the background check bills that passed the House but has not yet been brought to vote in the Senate.

"People across the country are calling on Congress to do something to end gun violence," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a tweet to McConnell. "It's time to lead on this issue. Put the House-passed background checks bill on the Senate floor for debate and a vote."

Pressure on lawmakers is also coming from corporations that are increasingly taking steps to curb gun violence.

On Tuesday, Walmart ($WMT) announced that it will stop selling ammunition for assault-style weapons and will request that visitors not openly carry firearms in stores. Kroger ($KR), a major nationwide grocery chain, quickly followed suit and requested customers not openly carry guns in their stores.

"It shouldn't be up to just the Walmarts of the world, our lawmakers need to act," Hunter said. "If corporations are acting in the best interest of their constituents and [lawmakers] are refusing to — that is a complete backwards process."

McConnell's office could not be immediately reached by Cheddar for comment.

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