WASHINGTON — Senators signaled on Wednesday a new willingness to consider certain restrictions on the sale of guns after the Orlando nightclub massacre, with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and others in his party ready to discuss limited gun control measures.
Emotions have run high in Congress since the Orlando massacre with Democrats stalling Senate proceedings on Wednesday to filibuster for tougher gun control legislation. Earlier this week, some House Democrats interrupted a moment of silence for victims, with shouts of “where’s the bill,” to protest the Republican-led chamber’s refusal to consider tougher gun laws.
With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Trump said he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns.
Republicans over the years have blocked gun control measures saying that they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
The Senate began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists after a gunman who had been on such a list killed 49 people at a gay nightclub on Sunday.
Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein were holding private talks on a possible compromise bill stopping weapons sales to those on watch lists, according to a Cornyn aide.
Another Republican, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, also is working on a bill that would keep guns from people on watch lists, a gun control group said.
Toomey, who is in a possibly difficult re-election bid this year, took to the Senate floor urging compromise.
“So there’s an obvious opportunity here guys, to work together and find a solution,” he said, adding, “This is not rocket science to figure this out.”
Congressional Republicans and the NRA have thwarted previous gun control measures backed by Democrats and President Barack Obama after other mass shootings, and supporters of new restrictions remained cautious about the moves.
“The Cornyn bill is outlandish and is worse than nothing. From what I’m told all of the compromises proposed by Cornyn and Toomey are not at all acceptable,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, of New York.
And Feinstein, speaking to reporters after a closed briefing from the Obama administration on the Orlando massacre, gave little hope that her talks with Cornyn would bear fruit. “I don’t think it’s going to work out,” she said, but added that she was still engaged in talks.
Trump said on Twitter he would meet with the NRA “about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.” A campaign spokeswoman declined to give details about the timing or nature of the meeting.
The NRA, a politically influential lobbying group that claims more than 4 million members, said in a statement it was “happy to meet” with Trump, whom it endorsed for president on May 20.
The group said in a statement that anyone on a terrorism watch list who tries to buy a gun “should be thoroughly investigated” by the FBI and any sale to that person delayed, a position the lobby group has long held.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has supported gun control efforts and on Monday said she was “bewildered” that Republicans in Congress had blocked a Democratic effort to restrict gun sales to people on the watch lists.