Democrats Try To Tempt Trump On Guns As Beto Beats Drum For AR-15 Buyback

September 21, 2019

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer offered Donald Trump a rare and highly symbolic victory in bipartisan cooperation on Sunday – if he could somehow force Republicans in the Senate to develop gun control legislation, among them Contains background investigation measures adopted by the House of Representatives this year.

The House Speaker and the Senate Minority Leader said that if he could allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take action, they would join the President at the White House, “a historic signing ceremony in the Rose Garden.”

This is still extremely unlikely: the close ties between Republican leaders and gun rights lobby groups have led to stagnant legislation on gun control, despite large-scale shootings in the United States.

Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement that they spoke to Trump on Sunday.

“We made it clear,” they said, “that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access.”

The House passed gun control legislation in February. The Senate has not taken it up.

In a statement, the White House said “the conversation was cordial” but added that “the president made no commitments” on the House bill.

Elsewhere, Beto O’Rourke continued to beat a louder drum.

The former Texas congressman and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has insisted he will lead a government buyback of assault-style weapons if he wins the White House.

That remains an outside prospect at best but O’Rourke’s passionate rhetoric – and frequent resort to forceful obscenity – has struck a note on the campaign trail.

On Sunday he told NBC’s Meet the Press criticism of his tactics “just shows you how screwed up the priorities in Washington DC are”.

In early August, in O’Rourke’s home town, El Paso, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart. Less than a day later, nine people were killed in Dayton, Ohio. On 31 August, seven people were killed in Odessa, Texas.

“I think what’s truly awful is a 17-month-old baby shot in the face with an AR-15, as happened in Odessa,” O’Rourke said.

“What’s truly awful is 22 people killed in a Walmart the Saturday before school starts that next Monday, buying their school supplies, innocent of any crime or any threat to this country, in fact, living in one of the safest cities in America, El Paso, Texas, hunted down by their ethnicity with a weapon that was designed for use on a battlefield.”

He continued: “I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA, that has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress. And this weak response to a real tragedy in America, 40,000 gun deaths a year, we’ve got to do something about it. And I’m proposing that we do something about it.”

A buyback, he said, would not violate the second amendment and the right to bear arms, as it would be “something that we’re able to do through the commerce clause … this is constitutionally sound.”

He went on, in familiar fashion, to cite support from Republican AR-15 owners he said he had spoken to out on the campaign trail.

“I think there’s support beyond the Democratic party,” O’Rourke said, “to include Republicans and independents, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to do the right thing”.

There is not uniform support within the Democratic party. On State of the Union, presidential contender Pete Buttigieg was asked if O’Rourke was playing into the hands of the NRA.

“Yes,” he said, adding that polling showed the US public wants universal background checks on gun sales, red flag laws designed to take guns from individuals deemed unfit to have them, and bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines and the sale of new assault weapons.

“This is a golden moment to finally do something,” the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, insisted, “because we have been arguing about this for as long as I have been alive. When even this president and even Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands. Let’s make the most of it and get these things done.”


Whether McConnell will really back legislative action is, of course, a doleful question indeed. On Sunday the Kentucky senator Rand Paul indicated the strength of the Republican roadblock.

“I think that part of the problem,” he said, “is cultural and losing a sense of right and wrong.”

He went on to say he advocated action, but with a focus on mental health.

“I think we should look at each of these killings and say, what went wrong? And I think the consistent theme here is, typically, not always, but white teenage boys in their middle teenage years to early 20s … almost every one of them is sending off signals.”

Asked if he would support a “red flag law” or background checks, Paul said: “We don’t know yet what’s coming forward. I can tell you that it’ll have to be consistent with the constitution.”

He added: “There has to be due process. You have to be allowed a lawyer, because the danger is, they could just say, ‘Oh, anybody that takes antidepressants can’t have a gun, or anybody who’s ever been to a psychiatrist can’t have a gun.’ And so there is a danger of going too far, where we preemptively just are out there taking everyone’s guns.

“And I am alarmed and it does alarm a lot of us when we hear Beto O’Rourke up saying, yes, they’re just going to come and knock the door down and take our guns.

“That scares the heck out of a lot of Republicans and a lot of gun owners.”