By Horus Alas
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) lambasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday for inaction on gun control legislation, saying it would be “grossly irresponsible” for the Kentucky Republican to not bring up legislation for a Senate vote.
“It’s irresponsible for [McConnell] to hand authority over to the executive branch,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Capital News Service. “We’re a co-equal branch of government and should not be contracting out our responsibilities.”
Van Hollen’s remarks came one day after McConnell said he would not bring gun safety measures to the floor of the Senate without the support of President Trump.
“If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I’ll put it on the floor,” McConnell told “The Hugh Hewitt Show” on Tuesday.
At the end of a summer plagued by mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and most recently, Odessa and Midland, Texas, 60% of voters favor more strict gun control legislation, according to an Aug. 29 Quinnipiac poll.
Support for gun control shifts when party affiliation is taken into account, however. The same poll indicated 37% of Republicans favor an assault weapons ban, compared to 85% of Democrats and 60% of independents.
Trump’s support for more stringent gun laws has also wavered.
Shortly after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last month, the president said: “I’m looking to do background checks.” But his tone changed in the following weeks, with The Washington Post reporting Trump said the country already has “very strong background checks right now.”
At a White House appearance Wednesday, the president said in response to a question about what he might do on gun safety that he was considering “many different concepts and many different things, including mental health.”
Van Hollen ripped Trump’s changing positions on guns, saying, “Who knows where Trump is? He’s one place one day, another the next day. The Senate needs to carry out its responsibilities,” adding “it would be grossly irresponsible for [McConnell] to hold up legislation.”
In February, the Democratic majority in the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. The bill would prohibit the private sale of guns between individuals without a licensed party like a manufacturer or gun dealer conducting a background check.
The Senate has not taken up the bill.
When it returns from its summer recess next week, the House also is poised to consider other gun-related bills, including a proposed ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, a proposed “red flag” law aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others, and a proposed ban on firearms possession by those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes.
Congressional Democrats have blamed McConnell for stymieing their progressive legislation, including gun safety proposals.
“We’re all horrified by Sen. McConnell’s refusal to allow a vote on these life-saving issues,” Van Hollen told CNS.
He argued that if McConnell wanted to vote against the measure, he was free to do so. But, Van Hollen said, “he should allow the Senate to vote and allow the democratic process to work.”