A press conference on Wednesday saw Sen. Bob Menendez and gun safety advocates putting the pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the Senate to vote on gun safety measures, after McConnell blocked legislation passed by the House to expand background checks.
“I’m tired of hearing we have to wait for the President to tell us what he’s willing to sign. That’s not the way the constitution of the United States was made. There are checks and balances, let’s send a bill to the President and see if he signs it or not,” said Sen. Menendez.
In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Odessa, the Republican senator says he would be happy to put any bill the President backs on the floor, but the Commander in Chief has been on both sides of background check debate.
In August, Trump asserted that background checks could prevent a gun from getting in the hands of a “lunatic or a maniac,” but just three weeks later, he stated that even strong background checks wouldn’t have prevented any mass shooting incidents and called the issue a “mental problem.”
Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey’s Rifle & Pistol Clubs, is more in agreement with the President’s latest stance.
“The notion that regulating people who are not the problem is going to solve anything is just faulty. So New Jersey has its own 10-round magazine limit, and it hasn’t done a thing to affect crime or criminality,” said Bach. “Criminals laugh at laws that ban hardware, while law abiding citizens contort themselves to comply.”
Advocates at the press conference who live and work in areas plagued by gun violence say by eliminating guns, people are forced to have a conversation and dispelled with the idea that gun violence persists in areas with strict gun laws.
“If you think that somebody has a gun, your best interest is ‘I gotta have a gun to protect my best interest,’ because your best interest is your life. We believe that guns are being brought into our city from surrounding states because there’s not a manufacturer here in New Jersey, so we know they’re being shipped in … a lot,” said William Latimore, High Risk Intervention supervisor at the Newark Community Street Team.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 54% of voters believe that mental illness is a bigger cause of mass shootings than the availability of guns. But 54% of voters also think that stricter gun laws would help to decrease the number of mass shootings in the United States, while 43% don’t believe that would help.
The poll also found that 72% of voters say Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.
Menendez says the House plans on advancing several pieces of legislation, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, when Congress returns from the summer session. As of now, Trump has not backed a specific measure.