WASHINGTON – The House won’t vote on proposed Democratic gun curbs, Speaker Paul Ryan suggested Tuesday as the rekindled election-year clash over firearms showed no sign of resolution. Democrats said it was time for Ryan to “get out of the way” and heed public demands for gun restrictions.
Ryan, R-Wis., said Democrats’ plans to broaden required background checks for gun buyers and to bar firearm sales to terror suspects were unconstitutional. And though he did not directly say he would block votes on the Democrats’ bills, he said Republicans had no intention of rewarding Democrats for their lengthy House floor sit-in two weeks ago to demand gun-control votes.
“Win elections and get the majority, then you can set the agenda,” Ryan said on the “Midday with Charlie Sykes” show on WTMU radio in Milwaukee.
Ryan’s comments came as the House convened peacefully for its first session since Democrats seized control of the chamber last month with a sit-in that lasted almost 26 hours. Democrats delivered speeches demanding votes on gun curbs but took no disruptive actions.
The House plans to debate GOP legislation this week that would let federal authorities block gun sales to suspected terrorists, but only if they could prove in court within three days that the suspect was planning to engage in terrorism.
That language, which resembles National Rifle Association legislation that the Senate rejected last month, is considered ineffective by Democrats because they say the mechanism it sets would prove unworkably complicated. Even so, it reflects the pressure for action the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, has placed on GOP leaders, who since the 2012 slaying of school children in Newtown, Connecticut, have not brought broad gun restrictions to the House floor.
Forty-nine victims were killed in Orlando, the worst mass-shooting in modern American history. It was conducted by Omar Mateen, a gunman who pledged support for leaders of the Islamic State extremist group, according to transcripts of his conversations with authorities.
The Republican measure would also create a new office within the Department of Homeland Security to focus on battling what it calls “radical Islamist terrorism” in the U.S.
Ryan planned to meet Tuesday evening with two leaders of the sit-in, Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and John Larson, D-Conn., to discuss the House’s plans. In an interview, Larson said Democrats won’t decide whether to resort to disruptive tactics – including potentially reviving their sit-in – until after their session with Ryan.
Larson said he considers Ryan “an honorable guy and a reasonable guy” and said, “Can the gun lobby have that big a hold on this place” that Republicans won’t allow votes on the Democratic proposals.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., mocked the GOP measure as “meaningless” and added, “The American people are demanding action and the least Speaker Ryan can do is get out of the way.”
Ryan said the Democratic bills would violate the Constitution’s rights for people to bear arms and to have legal processes to protect themselves.
Separately, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he was looking into reports that Democrats treated the House’s professional staff disrespectfully including “intimidation,” and may have even damaged House furniture while taking over the chamber. He said he and Ryan would meet with the sergeant at arms later Tuesday to discuss what happened.
McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested House leaders hoped to take action to prevent any recurrence and potentially punish some people involved, but said for now they were still collecting facts.
“You cannot continue that behavior on the floor of the House of Representatives. I’ll leave it at that,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol. “That will not be tolerated.”
Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesman, said McCarthy’s comments show that Republicans “know no bounds” to their willingness to follow the NRA.
Meanwhile, six people were arrested, including relatives of gun victims, after demonstrating in the Capitol Rotunda for gun control measures. They were charged with demonstrating in areas where that is prohibited.
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