WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday they will push for "sensible" gun safety laws that the public is demanding after a series of mass shootings in recent years.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said he was disappointed that President Donald Trump did not mention gun violence in his State of the Union address, but said Democrats would focus on ways to reduce gun violence.
"For far too long, Republicans in Congress have offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies. That era is over," Nadler said as the Judiciary panel convened the first pro-gun control hearing in the House in at least eight years.
"It is evident from the energy and the crowd in this room, as well as the millions of people across the country fighting for sensible gun safety laws, that the public is demanding national legislation," Nadler said.
Democrats have promised action on a range of measures to address gun violence, including expanded background checks for sales and transfers of firearms.
Other proposals include restrictions on high-capacity magazines and a federal measure to allow temporary removal of guns from people deemed an imminent risk to themselves or others.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the bill on background checks a common-sense measure and cited polls showing 97 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun sales.
While gun-control measures are likely to win approval in the Democratic-controlled House, they face strong headwinds in the Republican-controlled Senate and in the White House, where Trump has vowed to "protect the Second Amendment."
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, said expanded background checks would not have prevented recent mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., Charleston, S.C., or similar tragedies.
He called the background checks measure a "fraud" that promises protection against gun violence without achieving it. If Congress wants to write new laws to prevent violence, "we should, at a minimum, commit to enforcing the laws we already have," Collins said.
"The liberal penchant for expanding firearm restrictions but leaving dangerous criminal behavior unpunished has helped make some American cities into tapestries of violence," where victims cannot protect themselves from violent criminals, he said.
Houston Police Art Acevedo conceded that the background-checks bill would not solve gun violence, but said it would prevent at least one death — and likely many more.
"Is a little inconvenience too much to save one life?" Acevedo asked.