Republicans unlikely to act fast on guns
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is resisting pressure to bring senators back from recess to address gun violence, despite calls to "do something" in the aftermath of back-to-back mass shootings.
The Republican leader is taking a more measured approach, as his party's senators are talking frequently among themselves, and with the White House, in the face of mounting criticism that Congress is failing to act.
President Donald Trump is privately calling up senators - and publicly pushing for an expansion of background checks for firearms purchases - but McConnell knows those ideas have little Republican support.
The White House threatened to veto a House-passed background checks bill earlier this year. Yet, as the nation reels from the frequency of shootings and their grave toll, McConnell's unwillingness to confront the gun lobby or move more swiftly is coming under scrutiny.
"I can only do what I can do," the president told reporters as he departed Washington for visits to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where 31 people were killed in two mass shootings over the weekend.
On Wednesday, Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown made a personal plea to Trump to "call on Senator McConnell to bring the Senate back in session this week, to tell the Senate he wants the background checks bill that has already passed the House."
House Democrats signed onto a letter urging McConnell to act immediately on the House-passed legislation, which would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers.
In Kentucky, where McConnell is recuperating from a weekend fall that left his shoulder fractured, activists have been demonstrating at his home and protesting at his downtown Louisville office.
The Judiciary Committee, led by Democrat Representative Jerry Nadler, may take action during the recess on so-called "red flag" legislation to allow removal of guns from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.
McConnell's office is declining comment, referring back to a short statement he issued on Monday saying he was tasking three Republican committee chairmen "to engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions."
In the meantime, Trump has been dialling up Senate Republicans about what is possible.
Trump continues to say there's "great appetite" for background checks legislation. "I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had before," he said.
Instead, Republicans are trying to build support for more modest measures, including so-called red-flag bills from Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio that would allow friends and family to petition authorities to keep guns away from some people.
But those efforts are also running into trouble from conservatives, who worry about due process and infringing gun owners' rights.
Republican senators are also considering changes to the existing federal background checks system as well as strengthening penalties for hate crimes.
While many of those proposals have bipartisan support, Democrats are unlikely to agree to them without consideration of the more substantive background checks bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "We Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side."
The Democratic-led House overwhelmingly approved the background checks bill in February but it has scant support in the Republican Senate.
At least one Republican, Mike Turner of Ohio, said he supports other gun limits, including banning the sale of assault weapons to civilians, limiting the size of magazines and enacting red-flag laws.
Turner, whose district includes Dayton, said the "carnage these military-style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable."