Congress Guns

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined at right by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calls for a Senate vote on the House-passed Bipartisan Background Checks Act as Congress returns for the fall session with pressure mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to address gun violence, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats pressed President Donald Trump on Monday to intervene with Senate Republicans and demand passage of a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for gun purchases.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s “urgent, personal intervention is needed to stem the endless massacres of our fellow Americans by gunfire.”

They implored Trump in a letter released Monday to “seize this moment when your leadership and influence over Republicans in Congress on the issue of guns is so critical.” Trump must not “squander” the opportunity for meaningful action on gun violence “by acceding to NRA-backed proposals or other weak ideas that will do nothing to stop the continuing, horrific spread of gun violence,” the Democrats said.

The letter came as Congress returned to the Capitol from a six-week break, with gun violence legislation at the top of the agenda following a spate of mass shootings that killed dozens of people. A group of U.S. mayors, including some where mass shootings occurred, met with the White House and individual lawmakers to urge approval of a House-passed bill to expand background checks. The bill, approved in February, would expand background checks to cover private sales such as one that allowed a Texas shooting suspect to purchase his weapon before killing seven people last month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he won’t take action on guns without Trump’s commitment to sign a bill into law.

But Trump has flip-flopped on guns, first suggesting he’d be open to background checks legislation or other measures to try to stem gun violence, only to backtrack after speaking to the National Rifle Association and others in the gun lobby. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, wants to avoid a politically uncomfortable situation of forcing Republicans to vote on gun control bills only to have Trump reject them.

Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, who has emerged as a leading gun control advocate following a mass shooting that killed nine people in her city last month, said members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors are focusing on background checks as a first step to stem gun violence. A letter signed by 278 mayors from both parties urges Congress to act on the House-passed bill.

“We want an up-or-down vote on the House bill,” said Whaley, one of several mayors who met with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and other officials Monday.

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