House Democrats rally behind new assault-weapons ban, as Ryan hits back

House Democrats are rallying behind a new assault-weapons ban in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting, even as Republican leaders made clear Tuesday that such a sweeping measure likely will not get a vote. 

The “Assault Weapons Ban of 2018” bill was formally introduced Monday by Democratic Reps. David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, and Ted Deutch, whose Florida district is where a gunman killed 17 people with the kind of semi-automatic rifle the bill aims to ban.

“Now is the time for action,” Deutch tweeted. “Let's start by ridding our streets of assault weapons. These are weapons of war made for the sole purpose of killing people. Most Americans support the assault weapons ban. It's time for Congress to listen to them and pass sensible legislation.”

The bill, as of Tuesday afternoon, was sponsored by 164 of the chamber’s 192 Democratic members, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other members of her leadership team.

Deutch has publicly urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow members to vote on gun-control measures. And he’s vowed to work with anyone in Congress -- “Democrats and Republicans, to take meaningful action on gun safety.”

The bill itself would seek to “regulate the importation, manufacture, possession, sale or transfer of assault weapons,” according to the text. The measure is just one of several introduced this week to curb gun violence.

However, Ryan on Tuesday appeared to rule out consideration of anything resembling a gun ban. 

“We shouldn't be banning guns for law-abiding citizens. We should be focused on making sure those who shouldn't get guns don't get guns,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We want to listen to kids but want to protect people’s due process rights while making sure people who shouldn't get guns don't get them.”

The Wisconsin Republican vowed to still “have the conversations we need” with members to ensure “this doesn't happen again.”

House leaders on Tuesday also nixed an attempt by California Rep. Mike Thompson, who leads House Democratic efforts on firearms, to consider a special resolution to force the GOP-controlled chamber to “immediately consider gun-violence legislation.”

Ryan and his leadership team are also arguing the House has already passed legislation to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which flags dangerous gun buyers before they can make such purchases.

They point out that the chamber also has passed legislation dealing with mental-health problems, often a factor in mass shootings. Both of those measures are now being considered in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Still, Ryan and his team, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday directed much of their focus toward the breakdowns in law enforcement during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla.

“There was a colossal breakdown,” Ryan said. “We need to get to the bottom of how breakdowns occurred -- from the armed officer in the school at the time to the FBI failing to follow up on a profound tip.”

Scalise, who is still recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered in a June 2017 mass shooting while practicing with colleagues for a charity softball game, said he has talked with some of the surviving Florida students.

“There was talk about breakdowns at various levels of government, but ultimately we talked about our shared experience,” said Scalise, whose life was saved by officers who killed the shooter in last year’s attack.

“What angers me most is when I see breakdowns with  law enforcement. The FBI had [the shooter’s] name on a silver platter. He himself said he wanted to be a professional school shooter. It was posted under his name and turned over to the FBI," continued Scalise, R-La.

Ryan said that as a parent he supports the suggestion by President Trump to have trained teachers with a concealed weapon in classrooms, to prevent similar incidents -- but that the issue should be addressed by states, local governments, school boards and other parents.