Politics

House Gun Bill Assailed from Right and Left

Democrats' meeting with Ryan brings no resolution

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, left, and Rep. John B. Larson of Connecticut, front right, shown here with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, met with Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan met privately Tuesday night with two Democrats leading the push for gun control legislation. But the Wisconsin Republican did not provide any assurances that the Democrats would get the votes on the measures they can support.  

At the same time, some conservative House members said they are concerned about aspects of a counterterrorism bill that the Republican leadership introduced last week with one saying it would be “among the most egregious gun control measures ever to pass either house of Congress.”  

Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and John B. Larson of Connecticut requested the meeting with Ryan and conferred Tuesday. They emerged after about an hour saying they had reached no resolution.  

[ Key Moments in the House Sit-In on Guns ]  

“While they have different views on how to achieve a shared goal of preventing gun deaths in America — particularly on matters of due process — the speaker was glad they were able to have the discussion,” a Ryan spokeswoman said in a statement. “The path ahead on the anti-terrorism package will be discussed and determined by the majority in the coming days.”  

As House members returned from recess Tuesday, it became clear that the gun control issue would continue to roil the Capitol. A small group of citizen gun control advocates were arrested around noon after holding a sit-in in the Capitol Rotunda.  

Republicans said were exploring how to deal with their Democratic colleagues for violating House rules by staging a sit-in on the chamber floor two weeks ago. [ Democrats Tell Ryan on Guns: 'We're Not Going Away ]  

And Democrats gave speech after speech supporting amendments that would expand background checks, ban those on terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns and prevent civilians from buying military-style weapons.  

This time, they stayed within House rules — unlike in late June when they shouted down the speaker, sat in the well of House floor, and used their cell phones and live-streaming apps to broadcast their demands for action on gun laws during a nearly 26-hour siege of the chamber.  

On Tuesday, they made use of one-minute speeches, in which any member can take to a podium and discuss a certain topic for the limited time.  

[ Why You Can't See the House Sit-In on C-SPAN ]  

Many criticized a bill sponsored by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that includes several counter-terrorism provisions and is being fast-tracked to the floor this week.  

Included are gun control proposals that are substantially similar to a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association that would delay the sale of a gun to anyone on a federal terror watch list for three business days. The federal government can stop the sale only by going to court to demonstrate probable cause that the buyer is engaged in terrorism.  

Democrats have called the language unenforceable. Some called it a “sham bill” while others said it was a “bait and switch” to address gun laws.  

“I can’t get my dry cleaning back in 72 hours,” Rep. Jared Huffman of California said on the floor.  

Republicans have also objected, for different reasons. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said the measure would effectively strip someone's constitutional right to bear arms before they commit a crime.  

"If the bill becomes law, it will mark a massive expansion of the government’s ability to restrict gun rights on the basis of precrime—a crime not yet committed," he wrote in a lengthy Facebook posting . "H.R. 5611 is the actualization of dystopian fiction."  

[ Jolly Introduces New Gun Control Measure in House ]  

Virginia GOP Rep. David Brat told reporters that he has reservations about giving the attorney general the authority to decide when to deny a sale, and the difficulty of getting off the terrorist watch list.   

Brat, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said several Republicans have concerns about the bill, and it's unlikely it could pass in its current form. Several conservatives have offered amendments.   

Essentially, Democratic leaders believe the proposed legislation would make it too easy for suspected terrorists to buy guns, while some Republicans worry it would make too easy for the government to deny a gun to people mistakenly added to the no-fly list.  

The Rules Committee postponed a hearing to consider what amendments will be debated until Wednesday morning.  

In a meeting with reporters, McCarthy said he was exploring the possibility of taking action against Democrats following a nearly 26-hour sit-in late last month in which several House rules were violated including the use of cell phones and members sitting in the well of the chamber.  

McCarthy and Ryan plan to meet with the sergeant-at-arms on Wednesday. McCarthy said people were reviewing videos and photos of the disruption and said he wanted to discuss treatment of floor staff, including those employed by the sergeant-at-arms and damage to furniture.  

The California Republican also wants an inquiry into fundraising efforts while members were on the floor.    

“We expect members of Congress to adhere to the rules and the decorum of what is expected by being on the floor,” he told reporters. Violating those tenants would “not be tolerated.”  

[ Gun Control Advocates Arrested in Rotunda ]  

Gun control advocates also showed up at the Capitol Tuesday, staging a sit-in in the Capitol Rotunda just after noon before Capitol Police led them away in handcuffs.  

The eight advocates, waving pictures of friends and family members lost to gun violence, began shouting “No Bill, No Break,” the same slogan used by House Democrats in late June to demand action on gun violence  

Police arrested six of the eight participants within 10 minutes of the gathering, a police spokeswoman said. They were charged with demonstrating in an area where it is unlawful to do so.  

Some of the protesters held photographs of loved ones, and signs with such slogans as “My daughter is not a political stunt.”  

Bridget Bowman and Kelly Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter @remawriter .

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