Democrats Tell Ryan on Guns: 'We're Not Going Away'

Speaker can't assure House gun votes that Lewis and Larson requested

Speaker Paul D. Ryan told Democratic Reps. John Lewis and John B. Larson on Tuesday that he understood their concerns over the mounting gun violence in the country. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The stalemate between Republicans and Democrats in the House over gun control persists despite a private Tuesday night meeting between Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and John B. Larson of Connecticut.  

A source familiar with the meeting said Ryan told the two Democrats that their party is winning the public opinion war on gun control, but a Ryan spokesperson denied that the speaker made such a remark.  

Lewis and Larson, both leaders in the sit-in that stalled House action two weeks ago, had requested that Ryan meet with the full Democratic caucus so they could ask him for a vote on two gun control measures. But the speaker opted to meet with just the two of them. The three men served on the Ways and Means Committee together for years before Ryan became speaker.  

[ House Plans Vote on Guns Next Week ]  

Democrats are seeking votes on legislation to ban people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns, and on a measure to require background checks for firearms purchases made online or at gun shows.  

So What’s Going on in Congress With Gun Control?

Lewis said Ryan offered no assurances that Democrats would get the votes they're seeking but he listened to their message and said he understood their frustration over the mounting gun violence throughout the country.  

After their meeting, Lewis and Larson met with Democratic leaders and members of their gun violence prevention caucus. They said Democrats will continue to push for votes on the two measures, but declined to specify what actions they will take.  

"We’re not going away," Larson said. "And we’re determined in that effort. And I think [Ryan] understands that. And we understand where he’s coming from as well."  

[ Pelosi: 'We Cannot Stop' Until We Get a Gun Bill ]  

Publicly, Ryan has called the Democrats' nearly 26-hour sit-in protesting the lack of congressional action a "stunt ." He has also said that further disruptions and violations of House rules will not be tolerated. But Larson said the Wisconsin Republican was more reserved behind closed doors — "reverent" even.  

"He thought it was out of the ordinary, but I think we made it clear through our action and maybe further action that sometimes, you have to use extraordinary means and methods to educate, to inform, to inspire," Lewis said. "And I think he understood that."  

Larson said the only resolution was that there would be more meetings.  

“The speaker was clear that he had concerns about the institution and his role as speaker in protecting that," he said. "He was clear from a substantive standpoint about how he feels about due process, though he didn’t get into specifics of bills. And he was also concerned about his conference.”  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @lindsemcpherson .

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