Pelosi: ‘I Would Rather Pass Gun Safety Legislation Than Win the Election’

Minority leader doesn’t want to wait until Democrats possibly take the majority for action

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said it is important to pass gun safety legislation as soon as possible in the wake of the Florida mass shooting Wednesday that left 17 dead. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says her interest in gun violence prevention is so great that she prioritizes legislative action on it over one of her top goals — taking back control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I would rather pass gun safety legislation than win the election,” the California Democrat said Thursday.

Pelosi said she doesn’t want to wait until January, when Democrats hope to be in control of the House again, to act on gun violence.

“I don’t want to wait that long,” she said. “We could have a select committee right now.”

Watch: 10 Years of Congressional Efforts on Gun Control

“We could write on this appropriations bill that is due toward the end of March” a provision lifting prohibitions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research on gun violence, Pelosi added, referring to spending legislation needed once the stopgap measure funding the government expires on March 23. “And we could bring up the background check legislation, which is bipartisan.”

Those three potential actions are familiar Democratic requests in the wake of mass shooting tragedies like the one Wednesday at a Florida high school that resulted in 17 deaths.

“We’ll be continuing to meet on this subject to try to respond,” Pelosi said, but noted Demorats also want to try to prevent, rather than just respond to, gun violence.

Pelosi referenced Democrats’ sit-in on the House floor a year and a half ago, saying Republicans’ only reaction was to investigate which Democratic members used Periscope or Facebook to broadcast the protest (which was against House rules).

“That was their response to gun violence at the time,” she said.

The minority leader said she hopes Republicans will do more than offer a moment of silence for the victims of the Florida high school shooting but she didn’t sound optimistic that they would, given the GOP’s past inaction.

In his opening comment at his weekly press conference, Speaker Paul D. Ryan offered the exact response to the Florida high school shooting that Pelosi predicted.

“In a few moments when this vote closes we are going to go upstairs and hold a moment of silence for the victims of this shooting,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

In another familiar response, Ryan said mental health is a frequent issue associated with mass shootings and appears to be related to Wednesday’s shooting at a Florida high school.

“We passed legislation on mental health,” he said.

“We passed legislation cleaning up the instant background check system,” Ryan added, noting it’s sitting in the Senate. The speaker usually refers to this bill when pushed on why he won’t support expanded background check legislation.

Asked if he would be willing to form a select committee on gun violence, Ryan said, “I think Congress should do its job. … We passed mental health legislation two years ago”

Ryan said that law is just being implemented, noting, “The question is, are those laws where they need to be, is it being implemented correctly.”

President Donald Trump stuck a somber tone while addressing the  shooting.

“We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden, also. No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school,” he said Thursday.

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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