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Could El Paso and Dayton massacres drive congressional action on guns?

Mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have pushed gun safety back into the forefront of national politics. On Capitol Hill, how are lawmakers responding? Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss an unusual move from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the current landscape of proposed gun legislation and whether there is a realistic chance for any expansion of background checks to pass.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And all this leads to an urgent question being asked this week: What are lawmakers in Washington doing to deal with gun violence?

    Our Lisa Desjardins is here to explore where things stand.

    So, Lisa, I know you have been talking to a lot of people. What are they saying about whether there's any movement at all on this issue?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, a sign that one thing is a little different came from the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate in a statement last night.

    Mitch McConnell said the president reached out to him, and McConnell said these words, that the president encouraged him and Republicans in the Senate to engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our communities, and then added, without infringing on Americans' constitutional rights.

    You see there the political balance. But this is new from Senator McConnell, saying that he has now directed the four committee chairs who oversee this area of law, including guns and mental health, to find some kind of bipartisan agreement.

    Now, Judy, at the same time, there is a somewhat bipartisan bill that has already been passed by the House of Representatives. It is a bill that would increase background checks, make mandatory background checks at most gun shows, for example.

    It has eight Republicans supporting it. One of them is Peter King, and he has this message for Senator McConnell:

  • Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.:

    I believe it's essential that Senator McConnell allow this to come to a vote. He doesn't have to support it. He doesn't have to get behind it. Just let it come to a vote.

    And I think that, if anything good can come from the horrible tragedies of this weekend, it's that we can get this legislation passed.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, Judy, speaking to Senator McConnell's office today, they said there's no chance that he will bring that bipartisan, somewhat bipartisan background check bill up for a vote because the president has threatened to veto it.

    It is not clear if he will allow any background check to come up for a vote. Talking to the other senators involved in trying to find a bipartisan agreement, it's not really clear what direction they're going to go in yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting, because the president suggested the other day that maybe some kind of background checks, he could support.

    So, Lisa, I know you have been looking at all the legislation ideas that are out there. What exactly has been proposed so far?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, I looked at every bill that has come up this new Congress; 8,000 bills on every subject have been proposed.

    Let's look at how many deal with guns. Of that universe, about 100 — exactly 110 bills contain the word gun. Of those, Judy, only five bills have seen committee action. And some of those aren't really about the gun debate. They might just have funding for sort of a gun program involving education or something like that.

    So there really is not very much action, honestly, on guns. Most of it is being driven by Democrats.

    It's interesting to note, the most popular of those bills are the background check bill that passed the House, and also a Republican bill on concealed carry that would allow someone with concealed carry permits in one state to have them in every state.

    That is also not moving. So you see the partisan divide.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, what are the — from your talking to people — and I know Congress not in town right now, but does anything stand chance of passage?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I will say, Senator Lamar Alexander's spokesperson toned me today he has taken this as a mission, as a task from Senator McConnell, to find some kind of bipartisan plan that can pass.

    But I had to balance that, Judy, with others I spoke to, people who are key bipartisan voices here that would make a difference, who told me on the phone that didn't want their names used that they just don't see the room.

    It's another month from now until when the Senate returns. And in the voice of one person, if Newtown didn't change anything, if the universal background checks didn't pass then, they're still discouraged.

    I asked, well, aren't you making this sort of a fait accompli? Aren't you actually adding to the problem with that thinking? They said, maybe, but we feel it so strongly, we just don't think change is coming yet.

    We will see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of people are going to be discouraged by that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They are discouraged now. I think that's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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