Peduto: Meeting with McConnell over gun law was ‘low point of pessimism’
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto described a meeting with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “low point of pessimism” during a trip this week to Washington, where he and other mayors met with federal officials to pressure a Senate vote on proposed gun restrictions.
Peduto said McConnell gave him and several others three minutes, most of which McConnell spent on introductions and shaking hands. Peduto described an earlier meeting with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, as far different.
“If the meeting with Sen. Toomey was a high point of optimism, the low point of pessimism would have been the meeting with Leader McConnell,” Peduto said during a meeting with reporters upon his return to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Peduto joined a bipartisan group of mayors from across the country Monday and Tuesday meeting with the White House, including Senior Aide Kellyanne Conway, and Senate leaders to call for a vote on proposed legislation that would expand and strengthen background checks for gun buyers.
McConnell has made it clear that he won’t make any moves without President Trump’s commitment to sign the bills into law. But the president has flip-flopped on guns, first suggesting he’d be open to background-check legislation or other measures to try to stem gun violence, only to backtrack after speaking to the National Rifle Association and others in the gun lobby.
The Senate leader is trying to avoid a politically uncomfortable situation of Republicans joining Democrats to pass bills, only to have Trump reject them.
Against this backdrop, McConnell outlined what he must see before considering any gun legislation: “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor.”
Peduto said he also argued for a “red flag law” that would permit courts to take guns from a person deemed a public safety threat and required reporting of lost and stolen handguns.
Toomey supports expanded background checks and expressed optimism about a vote on the legislation, but said a bipartisan sticking point is over private gun sales, Peduto said.
Peduto said Ohio might have devised a way around that.
“Ohio has come up with an interesting alternative,” he said. “What they’re suggesting is there be liability on private-to- private sales. You can decide to do a background check — you’re selling to your cousin — or you can decide not to, and if you end up selling to somebody who has felonies and should not have a gun and ends up committing a crime, you can be liable up to a third-degree felony.”
The mayor said he didn’t know if the Senate would actually vote on two background-check bills. HR 8 aims to expand background checks to include the private transfer of firearms between individuals. HR 112 extends the review period deadline for background checks from three to 10 business days. Currently, if a background check is not completed in three days, the sale can go through.
“He didn’t leave us with optimism, but then again I believe there is the opportunity right now to have something done in the imminent future,” Peduto said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .