Leaders of the House of Representatives signaled support Thursday for a broader discussion on gun rights a day after President Obama waded into the issue more extensively than ever before. But the issue still appears to be a nonstarter in the Senate.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Urban League in New Orleans Wednesday night, Obama called last week’s massacre in Aurora, Colo. an “extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy.” He added later that talk of reforming gun laws after similar mass shootings has too often been “defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.”
The comments echoed the sentiments of lawmakers and the president’s own aides, who said this week that Obama is unlikely to push for new gun legislation because of strong opposition in Congress.
But House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday that he would welcome new proposals from the president and agreed that it would be appropriate to review current gun laws.
“If the president has proposals on other ways that we can address criminals owning guns, I’ll be happy to look at them,” Boehner said.
“I think that what’s appropriate at this point is to look at laws that we already have on the books and to make sure that they’re working as they were intended to work and are they being enforced the way they were intended to be enforced,” Boehner said. “And that’d be the most logical step forward at this point.”
Later, Boehner declined to say whether he agreed with Obama’s suggestion that policymakers need to find a way to ensure that background checks prohibit people with mental illness from obtaining weapons.
“I don’t know. I’m not the expert on this,” Boehner said. “But if the president’s got ideas, I’d be happy to look at them.”
Moments before Boehner spoke with reporters, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she supported the president’s “thoughtful statement” on the issue.
“We really need — we all recognize the importance of the Second Amendment and the need to — and also the need to reduce violence in our communities,” Pelosi said.
Her comments appeared to strike a balance that many Democrats take between respecting Second Amendment rights and the concerns of gun control advocates. Without advocating for outright legislation restricting gun access, Pelosi said that “I think we have to, as the president has suggested, everyone come together. I think a good deal of this will bubble up from communities that have been working on this on side of the issue or the other.”
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he supported the president’s remarks, but said the Senate’s busy schedule would mean no debate on guns in the coming months.
Asked if the Senate might debate the issue next year, Reid said, “Nice try.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) briefly appeared at a GOP Senate press conference, but left before reporters could ask him questions.
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