Pelosi Optimistic About Gun Control Bill Short of Assault Weapons Ban

More than 200 co-sponsors of comprehensive background checks bill 'is remarkable,' minority leader says

UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on March 01, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was optimistic Thursday about the chances that a Republican-controlled Congress could pass comprehensive gun safety legislation, signaling that the current debate is different than past ones that have led to inaction. 

“It might not be [an] assault weapon ban, but practically anything short of that is what we would expect,” she said of potential congressional action. 

Among the reasons the California Democrat is confident is President Donald Trump expressing support Wednesday during a White House meeting with House and Senate lawmakers for a variety of bipartisan ideas designed to reduce gun violence.

Those include bipartisan proposals like getting rid of the so-called Dickey amendment to appropriations measures that has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence; banning bump stocks; allowing gun violence restraining orders, and dropping concealed carry reciprocity from a measure designed to improve reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

Pelosi Says Country Needs ‘Substantial’ Gun-Control Bill

“Yesterday, we were encouraged by what President Trump had to say, our members who attended the meeting,” Pelosi said.

The minority leader was also encouraged by Trump pushing for legislation that would institute background checks for firearms purchased online or at gun shows. A bipartisan measure from Reps. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., that would do just that has reached 200 co-sponsors in the House. 

“We’ve never had anything like 200 names on a gun safety bill. This is remarkable,” Pelosi said. 

The King-Thompson bill is something Democrats have long pushed for in the wake of mass shootings like the one February 14 at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead. House Republicans, however, have been unwilling to consider it or any measure that would restrict access to guns. 

But Trump has signaled a willingness to take up some gun control measures that most Republicans have not, including a comprehensive background checks bill and a measure to raise the age at which individuals can purchase assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting from 18 to 21. 

“I know if the comprehensive bill on background checks came to the floor, it would win,” Pelosi said.

‘Back and forth’

Congressional Republicans have pushed back against some of Trump’s proposals, including his suggestion during the Wednesday meeting with lawmakers that law enforcement officials be able to confiscate guns from mentally unstable individuals before they received due process in court.

“This is a back and forth we’ve seen before. Of course, we saw the same meeting on Dreamers,” Pelosi said of meetings at the White House showing bipartisan support for congressional action after Trump and other Republicans walked back their positions. 

But the minority leader predicted that the gun control debate is different than the one on replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shelters young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. On DACA, the White House has expressed support for protecting the so-called Dreamers but they have suggested action could be taken now or deferred until later, Pelosi said. 

“The sense of urgency on the gun bill is one that — either it’s yes or no,” she said, noting that answer should become clear soon.

Like Trump did on Wednesday, Pelosi on Thursday called for action on a single comprehensive gun safety bill. 

“We’re hoping to have it in a comprehensive gun violence prevention package,” she said when asked if Democrats were pushing to get rid of the Dickey amendment in the omnibus. “This is probably the easiest thing that they can do.”

Call for Kushner to go

While Pelosi withheld her usual criticism for Trump in regards to the gun control debate she did not when it came to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose interim top-secret security clearance was downgraded this week

“No, I don’t think he should have been there to begin with, especially with the portfolio that he had,” Pelosi said when asked if Kushner should still hold a senior role in the White House. “The president doesn’t place a high value on experience, knowledge and judgement.”

Pelosi added that she’s concerned about the “revolving door” at the White House. 

“It’s spinning like a top,” she said. 

Anyone who wants to work at the White House, Pelosi said, should “know your blood type because you’ll be thrown under the bus.”

Watch: Trump to Lawmakers: “I’ll Love You” If Action is Taken on Gun Legislation

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.