House of Representatives reignites gun-control debate with planned vote

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2016 12:07 PM

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, under mounting pressure to advance gun-control legislation, will vote next week on a measure to keep guns out of the hands of people on government terrorism watch lists.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced the plan in a conference call with lawmakers, a week after Democrats staged a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to push for gun control following the mass shooting in Orlando.

Democrats, who have vowed to keep pushing for tighter gun restrictions when Congress returns from its U.S. Independence Day break next week, warned that if Republican leaders opt for a watered-down measure backed by the National Rifle Association, they will not accept it.

Republican leadership aides declined to provide details. One said the package was still being worked out.

Following the June 12 shooting that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, gun-control proponents ratcheted up pressure for legislation.

"We are going to get something done this year, I predict," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told reporters. "I think we’re going to take a bite out of the NRA."

Reid said he was hopeful for a bill introduced by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and a bipartisan House companion bill backed by Republicans including Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, to prevent gun sales to anyone on the government's "No Fly List" for terrorism suspects or the "Selectee List" for extra airport screening.

A source on Ryan's conference call said the speaker said the House would act next week on a gun measure as part of a larger terrorism package, calling the gun restriction "just common sense."

Before Thursday's announcement, Representative Bob Dold of Illinois, a Republican backer of the Curbelo bill, urged Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to opt for the bipartisan measure, according to a Dold aide.

Alternatively, Republican leaders could choose a Republican bill by Representative Lee Zeldin of New York as a companion to a Senate measure from Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas. The Cornyn measure failed in the Senate last week in the face of opposition from Democrats who claim the measure was written by the NRA.

"House Democrats will keep up our efforts to push for the majority to allow a vote on gun violence legislation, but bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn't going to cut it," said Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Cornyn-Zeldin measure would give officials three days to decide whether a gun sale should be blocked. Democrats argue the timetable is insufficient, and that the government would have to persuade a court that a would-be buyer "has committed or will commit an act of terrorism" before it could block a gun sale.

Under the Collins and Curbelo bills, a court would have 14 days to decide on appeals.

(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)