WASHINGTON - More than 200 U.S. mayors demanded Thursday that the Senate return from its summer recess to approve gun control legislation in the aftermath of two mass shootings last weekend that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 214 cities with both Republican and Democratic leaders, told Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that it was urgent for the Senate to approve the measures already passed by the House of Representatives in February.
That legislation calls for background checks for all gun purchasers and would extend the waiting period for gun transactions from three to 10 days when instant checks raise questions about would-be buyers.
Schumer has also urged Senate approval, but McConnell has blocked a vote because he opposes the measures.
"Already in 2019, there have been over 250 mass shootings," the mayors said in a letter to the lawmakers. They said the "tragic events" in the U.S.-Mexican border city of El Paso, Texas, and Midwest city of Dayton, Ohio, "are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them."
U.S. President Donald Trump, who visited Wednesday with survivors of the two shootings, first responders and health care workers in both Dayton and El Paso, said there is a "great appetite for background checks." But he also voiced the same sentiment a year ago after 17 students and teachers were gunned down at a Florida high school before backing off in the face of opposition by the country's top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.
The NRA voiced its opposition to Trump again this week, The Washington Post reported, and told the U.S. leader that background checks would not be popular among his core base of political supporters, many of them gun owners in the country's heartland.
Trump also supports "red flag" legislation that would allow local authorities across the U.S., after a judicial review, to confiscate guns of those believed to be a danger to themselves or others. But the U.S. leader said he sees "no political appetite" for a ban on the sale of assault weapons like those the gunmen deployed in the country's latest carnage.
Trump largely stayed out of public sight during the visits to Dayton and El Paso, where some supporters gathered on the streets, but protesters also carried signs attacking his anti-immigrant views and lack of action on gun control.
In Dayton, police killed the attacker, a 24-year-old community college student, within 30 seconds of the start of his barrage of 41 shots with an assault rifle that killed nine, including his sister, and wounded 27. In El Paso, authorities have charged a 21-year-old man with targeting Hispanics in a hail of gunfire that killed 22 and injured two dozen.
Trump critics say his rhetoric against migrants helped foment the El Paso massacre. But he has dismissed the attacks, while criticizing those who have disparaged his immigration views.
The U.S. leader suggested that Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who has often attacked Trump as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination to run against him in 2020, "should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!"
Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O’Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2019
While Trump visited with survivors at an El Paso hospital, video footage shows him comparing the size of the crowd he drew at a rally in the city in February compared to a gathering where O'Rourke appeared the same night.
"That was some crowd," Trump said of his event. "We had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, and they said his crowd was wonderful."