HOUSTON (FOX 26) - This week’s panel: Ben Streusand, conservative commentator, “Three Amigos”, KSEV Radio; Carmen Roe, Houston attorney; Antonio Diaz-, writer, educator and radio host; Jacquie Baly, UH Downtown Political Science Professor; Ben Ferguson, conservative radio host; Craig Jackson, Professor, TSU Thurgood Marshall School of Law, join Greg Groogan in a discussion about back ground checks and red flag laws regarding gun control
WASHINGTON (AP) - Shifting the gun violence debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he now wants to consider background checks and other bills, setting up a potentially pivotal moment when lawmakers return in the fall.
The Republican leader won't be calling senators back to work early, as some are demanding. But he told a Kentucky radio station that President Donald Trump called him Thursday morning and they talked about several ideas. The president, he said, is "anxious to get an outcome, and so am I."
Stakes are high for all sides, but particularly for Trump and his party. Republicans have long opposed expanding background checks - a bill passed by the Democratic-led House is stalled in the Senate - but they face enormous pressure to do something after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead. McConnell, who is facing protests outside his Louisville home, can shift attention back to Democrats by showing a willingness to engage ahead of the 2020 election.
"What we can't do is fail to pass something," McConnell said. "What I want to see here is an outcome."
McConnell said he and Trump discussed various ideas on the call, including background checks and the so-called "red flag" laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.
"Background checks and red flags will probably lead the discussion," McConnell told Louisville's WHAS-AM. He noted "there's a lot of support" publicly for background checks. "Those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass."
Trump has been interested in federal background checks before - and tweeted Monday about them - only to drop the issue later, a turnaround similar to his reversal on gun proposals after the 2018 high school shooting at Parkland, Florida.
The powerful National Rifle Association and its allies on Capitol Hill have long wielded influence, but the gun lobby's grip on Democrats started slipping some time ago, and it's unclear how much sway the NRA and other gun groups still hold over Republicans in the Trump era.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump assured them in phone calls Thursday he will review the House-passed bill that expands federal background checks for firearm sales.
In a joint statement, they said Trump called them individually after Pelosi sent a letter asking the president to order the Senate back to Washington immediately to consider gun violence measures.
Schumer and Pelosi said they told Trump the best way to address gun violence is for the Senate to take up and pass the House bill. Trump, they said, "understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives."
The politics of gun control are shifting amid the frequency and toll of mass shootings. Spending to support candidates backing tougher gun control measures - mostly Democrats - surged in the 2018 midterms, even as campaign spending by the NRA declined.
NRA chief Wayne LaPierre said in rare public statement Thursday that some federal gun control proposals "would make millions of law-abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones."
The organization said proposals being discussed in Congress would not have prevented the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that killed 31 people.
McConnell has been under pressure from Democrats, and others, to bring senators back to Washington after the back-to-back weekend shootings.
Earlier, more than 200 mayors, including those in Dayton and El Paso, urged the Senate to return to the Capitol. "Our nation can no longer wait," they wrote.
McConnell on Thursday rejected the idea of reconvening the Senate, saying calling senators back now would just lead to people "scoring points and nothing would happen."
Instead, the GOP leader wants to spend the August recess talking with Democratic and Republican senators to see what's possible. Senators have been talking among themselves, and holding conference calls, to sort out strategy.
"If we do it prematurely it'll just be another frustrating position for all of us and for the public," he said.
The politics of gun violence are difficult for Republicans, including McConnell. He could risk losing support as he seeks reelection in Kentucky if he were to back restricting access to firearms and ammunition. Other Republicans, including those in Colorado, Maine and swing states, also would face difficult votes, despite the clamor for gun laws.
GOP senators are also considering changes to the existing federal background check system, modeled on a law signed last year that improved the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, as well as increased penalties for hate crimes.
While many of those proposals have bipartisan support, Democrats are unlikely to agree to them without consideration of the more substantive background checks bill.
"We Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side," Schumer said Wednesday.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is pushing a bill to expand background checks, said Trump's support will be the determining factor in whatever gets done.
"At this point in time leadership comes from President Trump," Manchin said.
Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) - August 4, 2019 Democratic presidential candidates and the shootings in Texas and Ohio
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opened a town hall meeting in North Las Vegas with a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
He then joined several of his fellow Democratic presidential contenders in calling for universal background checks for firearm purchases and more restrictions on assault weapons.
Sanders said, "Assault weapons are designed for one reason. They are military weapons. And I don't have to explain that to the people in Las Vegas who experienced the worst gun tragedy in the history of this country."
Sanders urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call senators back to Washington. He said the Senate should "have a special session to address gun violence in America and let us finally have the courage to take on the NRA."
He also called out the president, saying "I say to President Trump, please stop the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric. Stop the hatred in this country which is creating the kind of violence that we see."
A top White House aide says President Donald Trump is saddened and angry following mass shootings in Ohio and Texas and "wants to do something about it."
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tells ABC that one of Trump's first calls Saturday after the shooting in El Paso was to his attorney general "to find out what we could do to prevent this type of thing from happening" and send a message that the shootings are "not appropriate."
Mulvaney described recent shootings as a "difficulty" facing the U.S. that "predates this administration by many, many years." He says there should be some public discussion about gun laws but also the role of social media.
Mulvaney stressed that the shooters in El Paso and Dayton are "sick" people, and that "no politician is to blame for that."
Democratic presidential candidates are expressing outrage that mass shootings have become chillingly common nationwide. They are blaming the National Rifle Association and its congressional allies after a gunman opened fire at a shopping area near the Texas-Mexico border.
In television interviews, several urged additional gun restrictions such as universal background checks. But they also cited Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and racial language.
Julian Castro, who previously served as San Antonio mayor and U.S. housing secretary, pointed to a "toxic brew" of white nationalism and says Trump needs to do more to "unite Americans instead of fanning the flames of bigotry."
Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, accused Trump of being a white nationalist and says he is encouraging "open racism."
New Jersey senator Cory Booker says Trump bears responsibility because he has done nothing to call out rising hatred in the U.S.