Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday introduced a measure intended to prevent gun sales to people on government watch lists, only to draw demands from Democrats for stronger proposals and a warning of possible new protests.
A week after Democrats ended a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to call for gun legislation after the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, said lawmakers will vote next week on a measure giving government authorities three days to convince a judge that someone on a terrorism watch list should not be allowed to obtain a firearm.
“It is a responsible measure that confronts this threat while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
But in a Friday conference call, House Democrats reached “a clear consensus” to oppose the measure, calling it the handiwork of the National Rifle Association, an aide said. Similar legislation, backed by the NRA, was blocked by Democrats in the Senate last week.
Democrats also called for two amendments: one to allow the U.S. attorney general to decide without court approval whether someone on a watch list could buy a gun; and another to expand existing background checks to all commercial gun sales including those at guns shows.
Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who led last week’s sit-in, asked for a meeting with Ryan to request the amendments, which consist of legislation originally sponsored by Republican Peter King of New York, the aide said.
“If these amendments are not allowed, then members will have further discussions about possible actions to take in response to this refusal to allow a vote on commonsense gun legislation,” said a House Democratic aide.
The new Republican bill, which would apply to anyone who has been suspected of violent extremism within the past five years, would require authorities to show probable cause that a would-be buyer “will commit an act of terrorism” or violates existing prohibitions on undocumented immigrants, fugitives, convicts and people with mental illness.
The NRA said it was reviewing the legislation, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said the legislation proposed by House Republicans was a publicity stunt.
“This show vote is nothing more than an attempt to fool the American people and for Paul Ryan to squirm off the hook,” said Dan Gross, president of the campaign, in a statement. He said the House should vote instead on expanding background checks to all gun sales.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Matthew Lewis and James Dalgleishi)