- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Senate Democrats on Tuesday tried to put pressure on the Republican majority to take action on gun control, recounting stories from their own communities about families torn apart by shootings across the country.

The series of speeches amounted to a bit of political theater, given that it’s up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring any legislation to the floor and the Kentucky Republican has said he’s waiting on President Trump, who is set to propose a bill aimed at curtailing gun violence soon.

The push from Democrats comes after mass shootings in Ohio and Texas where 35 people were killed during the August recess. Lawmakers vowed to return to Washington and address what they called an epidemic.

“The reality is mass shootings can and have happened in all corners of this country,” said Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York.

She recalled one of her constituents having to take her husband off life support after he was shot in the crossfire between gangs in Brooklyn.

The former 2020 presidential candidate, who suspended her presidential campaign last month, also called out Sen. Martha McSally, Arizona Republican, who was presiding over the chamber in a passionate plea to look at her during her remarks. She noted former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was gunned down in Arizona, Ms. McSally’s home state.

“The time for turning a blind eye is over,” she said to her Republican colleague.

Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, talked about a grandmother from his home state who was killed in the El Paso shooting. The gunman opened fire at a Walmart and reportedly targeted Hispanics.

“Protecting our communities, schools and churches cannot wait,” Mr. Udall said.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the U.S. this year by gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a research group tracking firearm statistics.

The group says 301 mass shootings have happened this year. It defines mass shootings as four or more people shot and killed, not counting the shooter.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he hopes the personalized pleas will force his Republican colleagues to listen and join Democrats to pass gun control legislation.

Democrats are calling for a vote on a bill that would extend background checks to private sales. The measure passed the House this year largely on party lines.

Tuesday’s series of back-to-back speeches comes as Mr. Trump is set to release a plan to combat gun violence later this week, but Mr. Schumer said he has heard that the proposed legislation won’t include universal background checks — which Mr. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Mr. Trump on Sunday that the legislation must include.

“If whatever the president announces this week falls short of what the American people are demanding, Democrats will continue pressing the issue,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. McConnell, though, told reporters he doesn’t plan to take up any legislation unless he knows it has the president’s support, noting Mr. Trump issued a veto threat over the House-passed legislation.

“I know I’m the majority leader, but I’m telling you, I want to know what the president supports — it’s not unimportant to my members,” he said. “Until we get that kind of guidance, we’re in a holding pattern, so to speak.”

⦁ David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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