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Congressional Democrats return from recess vowing to prioritize gun legislation

As they return to Washington from their summer break, congressional Democrats want to make new gun safety legislation one of their top priorities. The House has already passed a law expanding background checks to private gun sales, but the GOP-led Senate has never voted on it. In the aftermath of three deadly August mass shootings, will the outcome be different now? Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With the August recess now over, members of Congress scrambled today to prioritize their agenda items.

    As Capitol Hill correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports, there's a lot to choose from.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Their first full day back from summer break, House Democrats wanted to talk guns and gun violence, holding a forum on the issue.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    We will fight on every front, in the courts, and in the Congress, and in the court of public opinion, to make sure this issue is too hot to handle for the GOP to block. We're not taking no for an answer.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Speaker Pelosi is particularly touting a bill the House already passed to expand background checks to include most private sales.

    That idea has gained new attention after last month's mass shooting in Odessa, Texas. Officials say seven people were killed by a man who failed a background check, but got a gun later through a private sale, where no background check was required.

    That violence, along with attacks in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, led to 40 deaths last month. And all of that is leading Democrats to pressure the Senate to vote on more background checks.

  • Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer:

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    A debate on gun safety should be our first order of business, and the place to start a debate is a vote on the House-passed bipartisan background checks bill.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But in the Senate, one vote matters most, that of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said, for a gun bill to get a vote, the president must back it first.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    We do, in fact, await word from the White House about what the president is willing to sign.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This, despite polls showing, nationwide, overwhelming support for increased background checks.

    An NPR/"PBS NewsHour"/Marist survey out today shows that 83 percent of Americans support laws requiring background checks for gun show purchases and private sales. This puts enormous pressure on vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection next year, like Susan Collins of Maine.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    Over the August recess, I had extensive conversations with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with the White House, and I'm optimistic that we could reach agreement on a package that would pass the Senate.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As senators struggle to vote on anything, House Democrats are voting on more and stepped-up ideas, today moving bills through committee to limit high-capacity magazines and support more red flag laws, allowing law enforcement to take weapons from anyone thought to be dangerous.

    Some House Democrats also want to return to an all-out ban on assault-style weapons.

    But with Congress divided, the deciding voice looks like President Trump's. He met with Republican leaders about gun violence today. But he has indicated both an openness and opposition to gun legislation in recent days.

    Therein lies the challenge, says Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    I'm sure he will take a position. The question is, will he hold it? If he does, he will be able to lead us forward to making progress on guns. If he doesn't, I think we will all be once again disappointed at the lack of progress.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats are hoping for more gun votes in the House in coming weeks.

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