US Senate likely to discuss gun control laws, checks next month

Senate majority leader McConnell is also open to discussing extending background checks and other gun laws.

    Senate majority leader McConnell has faced heavy criticism for his failure to discuss new gun control laws [Bryan Woolston/Reuters]
    Senate majority leader McConnell has faced heavy criticism for his failure to discuss new gun control laws [Bryan Woolston/Reuters]

    The United States Senate will likely discuss extended background checks for people wanting to buy guns following three mass shootings in two weeks, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said.

    The Republican, who is facing protesters calling for gun reform outside his Kentucky house, said he is also open to discussing other bills regarding gun control, mainly so-called red flag laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.

    "What we can't do is fail to pass something," McConnell told a local Kentucky radio station. "What I want to see here is an outcome."

    McConnell and the Republican party have faced heavy criticism for their refusal to discuss restrictions on gun sales.

    However, following three mass shootings in which 35 people were killed, pressure increased significantly on Republicans who refused to discuss a bill that was already passed by the Democrat-led House. 

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    "Background checks and red flags will probably lead the discussion," McConnell said.

    He noted "there's a lot of support" publicly for background checks.

    "Those are two items that for sure will be front and centre as we see what we can come together on and pass."

    However, McConnell also said he would not be forcing senators, who are currently on August recess, back to Washington to force them to vote on gun legislation.

    Instead, he wants to spend the August recess talking with Democratic and Republican senators to see what is possible. Senators have been talking among themselves, and holding conference calls, to sort out strategy.

    "If we do it prematurely, it'll just be another frustrating position for all of us and for the public," said McConnell, who could risk losing support as he seeks re-election in Kentucky if he were to back restricting access to firearms and ammunition.

    US President Donald Trump has said several times he would be in favour of extending background checks for people wanting to buy assault rifles, most recently on Monday following the shootings in Texas and Ohio earlier that weekend.

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    When Trump visited El Paso, the scene of one of the shootings last weekend, he was greeted by protesters who called on the president and Congress to "do something" about gun violence. 

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump assured them in phone calls on Thursday he will review the House-passed bill that expands federal background checks for firearm sales.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies