U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks as Democratic House members look on during a news conference on gun violence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- House Democrats are calling on their Republican counterparts to act on legislation to put a dent in gun violence that is plaguing the United States, saying it is time for them to choose between guns and the country's children.
The Democrats held the press conference on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, two days after six people, including three children, were killed at a Nashville Catholic school.
It was the United States' 130th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said they were standing Wednesday in solidarity with yet another community that has fallen victim to gun violence and demanding House Republicans "put people over politics and put kids over guns."
Democrats have been pushing for years to enact gun reform laws, with the only recent major success being a bipartisan bill enacted in June that eliminates the so-called boyfriend loophole, encourages states to implement red-flag laws and changes the process to purchase a gun for those under age 21.
The administration of President Joe Biden has sought stricter regulations, including more background checks and a ban on assault rifles.
Earlier this month in Monterey Park, Calif., where a gunman killed 11 people and injured nine others in January, Biden announced a slate of new actions to curb gun violence.
On Tuesday when asked by reporters what further actions he could take to combat gun violence, the president said his powers were tapped.
"I have gone the full extent of my executive authority," he said. "The Congress has to act."
Later in the day in North Carolina, Biden reiterated his call for an assault weapons ban.
"Why in God's name do we allow these weapons of war in our streets and at our schools?" he said. "Last year, we came together to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in 30 years. It was bipartisan. We got it done. And don't tell me we can't do more together."
Republicans have been comparatively quiet on the issue since the shooting, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., telling reporters on Wednesday that they "want to see the facts" before putting forward gun legislation.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., told reporters outside the Capitol that "We're not going to fix it."
"Criminals are going to be criminals," he said.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, whose district saw a mass shooting that killed 23 in 2019, lambasted Burchett for his comment on Wednesday during the Democratic press conference, saying, "It is our job to fix it."
"It is our obligation to fix it. House Democrats have acted over and over and over again to pass legislation to fix this," she said. "And to my Republican colleagues who refuse to act: If you don't want to get to work, get out of the way so the rest of us can.
"Enough is enough and we're calling on our colleagues to bring those bills to the floor now and provide safety and relief to Americans who are demanding it."
Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the House minority whip, said it was their responsibility to keep Americans' children safe and that her party will not allow the "vile cynicism" of Republicans to prevent them from doing their job.
"The least the MAGA majority can do is have the courage to show parents where they stand," she said, referring to the Make America Great Again campaign slogan of former President Donald Trump.
"Give us a vote on assault weapons, give us a vote on background checks, bring it to the floor, put yourself on record, show the American people your priorities. Is it our kids or is it guns?"