Sep 9, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Mayors pressure White House on background checks

Illustration of a mayor's sash in the shape of a prohibition sign around a handgun

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bipartisan group of mayors will meet with White House officials and senators Monday — the first day lawmakers are back in Washington after August recess — to demand action on background check legislation to help curb gun violence.

The big picture: There have been 115 mass shootings since 1999 that left 941 people dead and 1,431 more injured. In February, the House passed 2 bills aimed at strengthening the background check system to bar people who shouldn't have access to firearms from purchasing them. But the Senate hasn't acted.

The latest: Last week, Fox News reported that the gunman who killed 7 and injured at least 22 in West Texas was not legally allowed to own or buy firearms after a previous court ruling that he was mentally unfit. He avoided a background check by buying the firearm in a person-to-person gun sale, which does not require background checks.

After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton last month, nearly 300 mayors signed a letter calling on Senate leaders to take up background check legislation.

  • Today, about a dozen of those mayors, including Nan Whaley from Dayton, Ohio, and Christine Hunschofsky from Parkland, Fla., plan to urge the White House officials to act.

"When you hear that there's been a shooting, it used to be a shock. Now it's not even a surprise it's happening because it's happening with such regularity," Bryan Barnett, Mayor of Rochester Hills, Mich., and president of the United States Conference of Mayors, told Axios.

  • "I think we are seeing a tipping point," added Barnett, a Republican from a conservative community. "I've seen a change here. While they're not looking to go as far as some folks on the left want to go, they understand something needs to be done. The status quo really isn't acceptable."
  • "It's not just happening in certain areas. It's happening in Baptist churches, synagogues, mosques, gay bars, Home Depots, country concerts. Everyone can picture themselves in a location where a shooting has occurred," Barnett said.

Pressure is mounting on the president to decide on a gun-control strategy, but Trump's political advisors worry his base would not support pursuing expanded background checks, CNN reported. Meanwhile, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick on Friday bucked the NRA and endorsed expanding background checks in private gun sales.

  • The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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