U.S. senators signaled on Wednesday a new willingness to consider restrictions on the sale of guns after the Orlando nightclub massacre, with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and others in his party ready to discuss limited gun control measures.
With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Trump said he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns. Emotions have run high in Congress since Sunday’s mass shooting with Democrats stalling Senate proceedings on Wednesday in a bid to push for tougher gun control legislation. Democratic senators planned to speak on the Senate floor well into Wednesday night.
The Senate began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists after a gunman who had been on such a list killed 49 people at a gay nightclub on Sunday.But following a full day of wrangling, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that negotiations “were little more than a smokescreen by Republicans trying to give themselves political cover while they continue to march in lock-step with the NRA’s extreme positions.”
Reid said there were no Republican proposals “that come close to attracting Democratic support.”Earlier on Wednesday, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators to offer ideas on how to prevent another attack like the one in Orlando. “I do not believe this was some random act of violence,” McConnell said. “It seems clear this was cold-blooded murder committed by a terrorist who picked his targets with deliberate malice.” On Tuesday, McConnell said that “nobody wants terrorists to have firearms.”
Earlier in the week, some Democrats in the House of Representatives interrupted a moment of silence for the victims, with shouts of “Where’s the bill?” to protest the Republican-led chamber’s refusal to consider tougher gun laws. If Congress was to pass a gun control measure, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that lawmakers agreed on how to address the hot-button issue. A ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the one used in Orlando, had gone into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later.
Republicans over the years have blocked gun control measures saying they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, confirmed that he and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein were holding private talks on a possible compromise bill stopping weapons sales to those on watch lists.