Top Dem Calls Out GOP For Bowing to the Demands of the NRA.
The second-ranking House Democrat went after GOP leaders on Tuesday for caving to the gun lobby in rejecting new firearm controls in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, said Democrats will support the Stop School Violence Act, the Republicans’ response to last month’s shooting massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school. The legislation, which would provide states with new funding to train educators and students in violence-prevention tactics, is scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday.
“The bill that’s being proposed I think will have … overwhelming support,” Hoyer said.
“I don’t think there will be very many people who are going to oppose that, if any.”
But Hoyer said the proposal falls far short of the reforms needed to keep firearms out of the hands of unstable and potentially violent people, urging Republicans to consider another bipartisan bill expanding background checks to accompany virtually all gun sales nationwide. The Stop School Violence Act addresses violence in schools, Hoyer noted, but does nothing to prevent gun deaths elsewhere.
“It is not a substitute for things that will make our society, as well as our schools, our malls, our churches, our restaurants, our nightclubs — anyplace where large public gatherings occur — safer,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer accused Republican leaders of pandering to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in rejecting expanded background checks.
“Ninety-seven percent of America supports that,” Hoyer said, referring to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. “This [Stop School Violence] bill is not a substitute for getting that done. This is a pretense that we are doing something while we’re showing the NRA we aren’t doing anything.”
Under current federal law, background checks prior to gun sales are required only of licensed firearm dealers, creating an enormous loophole for prohibited buyers to obtain guns from the internet and non-licensed dealers — a loophole the Democrats, and some Republicans, want to close.
While the NRA had backed that idea after the 1999 mass shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School, the group has since shifted to the right and now opposes any such expansion of pre-sale screenings.
The gun control debate has taken off since the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at South Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where police say a lone gunman killed 17 students and educators with a military-style rifle. The authorities charged a 19-year-old former student with a history of violence and disciplinary problems.
Republican leaders have sided with the NRA in their response to the shooting, rejecting the idea that new gun controls would prevent future tragedies.
“We shouldn’t be banning guns from law-abiding citizens,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said after the incident.
President Trump thrust himself into the middle of the debate late last month, when he hosted a televised meeting of bipartisan lawmakers at the White House. During the remarkable gathering, Trump seemed to endorse a number of gun controls — including expanded background checks and an increase in the age to buy an assault rifle — while accusing the Republicans of cowering to the NRA at the expense of public safety.
“They have great power over you people; they have less power over me,” Trump said. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA; you can’t be petrified.”