October 4, 2017 / 12:01 AM / a year ago

U.S. Republican leaders shun talk of gun control measures

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican leaders of the U.S. Congress pushed aside discussion of gun control on Tuesday, while Democrats appealed to President Donald Trump to back legislative action after the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history took 59 lives in Las Vegas.

More than 500 people were injured in the shooting at an outdoor concert on Sunday night in Las Vegas, including some who were trampled in the panic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it was premature to discuss legislative responses, “if there are any,” while House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the focus should be on mental health.

Democrats, who are in the minority in both chambers, said they were crafting measures to expand background checks of gun purchases and ban devices that can make rifles rapid-fire. One of the few Republicans to support tougher gun laws in the past, Senator Pat Toomey, said he was still interested.

Stricter gun laws have been proposed after previous mass shootings, but most Republicans and some Democrats repeatedly have balked at what they see as infringements on the right to bear arms embedded in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged the Republican president to break the stalemate in Congress over gun control.

“Before he was a candidate and marched in lockstep to

the NRA (National Rifle Association), Donald Trump expressed a very reasonable position on gun control. ... Break from the NRA, which is making things worse, and work with us to get something done,” Schumer said.

But McConnell said it was too soon to talk about legislation when the investigation into the shooting had not been completed.

“It’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this ... entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions, if any,” McConnell said.

When asked what lawmakers should do about mass shootings, Ryan said mental health reform was critical, because “one of the things we’ve learned from these shootings is that often underneath this is a diagnosis of mental illness.”

But Ryan also indicated House Republicans had shelved legislation that would make it easier to buy gun silencers, a proposal supported by the NRA that was passed by a House committee three weeks ago.

“I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled,” Ryan said. He stood with other Republican leaders, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip who was critically wounded by a shooter at a congressional baseball practice in June.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), speaks with reporters following the party luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Scalise urged blood donations in the wake of the Las Vegas carnage.

additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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