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How St. Louis-Area Congressmen Reacted To The Recent Mass Shootings

U.S. Capitol
Liam James Doyle | NPR
Members of Congress representing the St. Louis region say they are ready to act to prevent mass shootings, but tactics differ in how to accomplish that goal.

St. Louis-area members of Congress said they are ready to act to prevent mass shootings like the ones that took placein El Paso and Dayton over the last weekend — though it’s sometimes unclear what exactly they are looking to do.

Democrats tend to favor restrictions on gun ownership and have tied the El Paso attack, specifically, to white supremacy. Two local Republicans said they could support so-called red flag laws that could temporarily prevent someone from purchasing a firearm if they exhibit troubling behavior.

Here’s a rundown of what members of Congress representing the St. Louis region have said in the wake of the two gun attacks that left 31 people dead last weekend:

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.  

Durbin, like many other Senate Democrats, supports the Senate coming back to Washington early from its summer recess to vote on legislation that would require federal background checks on all gun purchases and transfers. So far, there has been no movement toward an early return.

Durbin is also pushing one of his bills, called the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which he says will help combat white supremacy movements. The Illinois senator also tried to widen the conversation about gun violence to encompass not just mass shootings but also lower-profile incidents.

“As the nation grieves with the communities in El Paso and Dayton, we must remember that gun violence is not limited to these tragic mass shootings. There were shootings across the City of Chicago this weekend that left 7 people dead and more than 50 injured by gunfire,” Durbin tweeted.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Hawley said he was eager to consider legislation that might help prevent mass shootings in the future, but was vague about what type of proposal he would support.

“Surely there’s more that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Hawley said in a statement. 

“I look forward to reviewing any proposed legislation with an eye towards effectiveness and the Constitution. And I also look forward to a discussion about the culture of isolation, escapism and despair that has led far too many young men to fall prey to radical ideologies and violence,” he said. 

He said he and his wife mourn for the victims and their loved ones. 

A spokesman said Hawley is reserving judgment about a concept being worked on by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., that would encourage states to pass red flag laws. No legislation has been written up by Graham and Blumenthal to review yet, Hawley’s office said.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

Duckworth called for new gun restrictions. 

“Passing public safety measures to save lives isn’t tyranny, it’s common sense,” Duckworth wrote.

She wants the background check system strengthened and legislation that limits people’s access to assault weapons.

“It’s past time we honor the lives of those lost not just with moments of silence, but with action. Actions that strengthen our background check system and keeps weapons of war off of our streets and out of the hands of those who have no business possessing them.”

Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Missouri’s senior senator hasn’t made an official statement about the shootings yet. His office said he is leading a congressional delegation trip out of the country this week. “If he issues a statement, I will make sure you have it,” said Katie Boyd, Blunt’s spokeswoman.

Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis

Clay has tweeted or retweeted over 130 times about the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

Like Durbin, Clay wants the Senate to take up legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and transfers. Clay voted for the legislation when it came up in the U.S. House. That proposal doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hasn’t shown any willingness to move it, according to several national reports. 

Clay is also pushing for his own legislation that would punish states that don’t let local governments pass more stringent gun restrictions. Under Clay’s proposal, the federal government would hold back funding from states that don’t let cities and other municipalities enact their own, stricter gun laws.  

Before the latest shootings occurred, Clay scheduled a St. Louis town hall meeting aimed at curbing gun violence for Aug. 28. 

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin

In the aftermath of last weekend’s mass shootings, Wagner denounced white supremacy on social media. The shooter in the El Paso attack had espoused white nationalist views, which were a factor in the ambush.

“Any attack by those who espouse hate and white supremacist ideology is an act of domestic terrorism,” Wagner said in a tweet and Facebook post Sunday. “We must identify and defeat rhetoric that allows these evil ideologies to infect our communities.” 

Wagner voted against legislation passed by the House earlier this year that would strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases and transfers. She did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville

Davis said he would back red flag legislation. 

Illinois already has a law on the books that allows courts to order an individual’s firearms taken away temporarily if that person is deemed a threat to themselves or others. Police officers and relatives can request the orders. 

Davis says he’d back federal legislation that encourages other states to follow suit.

“This bill could feasibly help us avoid mass shootings in the future,” Davis said.

Illinois Public Radio and the Associated Press provided some information for this article.

Julie can be found on Twitter at @jsodonoghue. Eric can be found on Twitter at @EricDSchmid

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Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.