US Congress returns after a bloody August sharpens focus on guns

Washington, Sept 8 (AFP/APP):The US Congress convenes Monday for the first time since recent mass shootings left Americans distraught over surging violence, but the Senate’s Republican leader stressed he would not consider gun legislation without President Donald Trump’s backing.

Horrific public shootings last month in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio left 38 dead, galvanizing activists and other Americans into demanding that lawmakers take steps to reduce the country’s unchecked gun violence.

They point to legislation that has already cleared the Democratic-led House of Representatives, including bills to expand background checks for would-be gun buyers — a move overwhelmingly supported by the public — and to close loopholes that have enabled some firearms to be transferred before checks are completed.

Lawmakers scheduled a forum Tuesday to demand Senate action, and some Democratic presidential candidates have called for a ban on military-style assault weapons like those used in recent massacres.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cautioned he would only bring a gun bill to a vote if Trump makes clear he is willing to sign it into law.

“The administration is in the process of studying what they’re prepared to support, if anything, and I expect to get an answer to that next week,” McConnell told the Hugh Hewitt radio show Wednesday.

“If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it will become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”

Shortly after a gunman stormed a Walmart store in El Paso and killed 22 people in a hate-inspired August 3 attack, Trump said there was “very strong appetite” for expanding background checks.

But he has flip-flopped on the issue. After meeting soon after the El Paso attack with leaders of the National Rifle Association, the powerful pro-gun lobby, the president has gone quiet on background checks.

Instead he has focused on the issue of mental health.

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