WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans in Congress of being “a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America” as she and other Democrats bemoaned the lack of action by the GOP majority to address gun violence after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The GOP’s failure to act “is about money,” Pelosi said after a rally Wednesday morning outside the Capitol.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders have asked Americans to donate blood in the wake of the shooting, Pelosi said Republicans “have to give some political blood. They think their political survival is more important than the survival of those 59 people” who died in the Las Vegas shooting, as well as the school children who died in Newtown, Connecticut, and club-goers killed in Orlando, Florida.
“It isn’t,” she added.
Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said at the rally that thoughts and prayers were not enough.
“How many more dead bodies will it take to wake up this Congress?” Lewis asked. “This (gun violence) must stop and it must stop now.”
Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously wounded in a 2011 shooting, urged lawmakers to “be bold, be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”
The Democratic rally, which included dozens of activists assembled near the Capitol steps, came after Republican leaders made it clear Congress will take no action on gun legislation in the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas.
GOP leaders refused to entertain Democratic demands to expand background checks for gun purchases and tighten restrictions on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines and they also shelved their own House bill that would have loosened access to gun silencers.
Ryan, in an interview with WISN radio in Milwaukee, said Wednesday: “Bad people are going to do bad things.”
He defended the GOP emphasis on prayer after the horrific violence and maintained that it was wrong “to turn this into some political football, some policy debate before we even know all the details.”
“What I don’t think you want your government to do is to lurch toward reactions before even having all the facts … and to grab onto a policy or political cause in such a moment,” the speaker said.
Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday there is no plan for the House to act soon on the silencer bill, which a Republican-led House committee backed last month. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, said it would help hunters protect their hearing.
The silencer bill is “not scheduled right now. I don’t know when it will be scheduled,” Ryan said Tuesday.
The congressional inaction underscored the power of the NRA and the political stakes for lawmakers who maintain their support for the constitutional right to bear arms and fear any challenge to their fealty.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said action on guns after Las Vegas was unnecessary. “We are not going to knee-jerk react to every situation,” he said.
But Pelosi and other Democrats said the Las Vegas was merely the latest and most horrific in a long series of deadly shootings that occur nearly every day.
“This isn’t just about what happened in Nevada, which is reason enough to do something, but it’s happening on the streets of our cities on a daily basis,” Pelosi said.
Four years ago, after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, a bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate.
The complicated politics of guns was personified by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat up for re-election next year in a state carried overwhelmingly by President Donald Trump.
Manchin, who co-sponsored the failed bill that would have expanded background checks, said Tuesday, “I come from a gun state and I am a protector of Second Amendment rights and I understand these people’s fear.”
West Virginia residents “cherish the right to be able to go hunting with their family … sport shooting and all the things we do enjoy,” Manchin said, adding that any potential legislation must be based on common sense.
“The president could really take a lead on this. He really could,” Manchin said.
Trump has called the Sunday night shooting at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas an “act of pure evil” and declared the nation would unite behind the survivors.
“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” Trump said Tuesday. Asked about the silencer bill, Trump said, “We’ll talk about that later.”
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