WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) advocated a focus on mental illness amid calls for Congress to probe legislative solutions to gun violence after Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas.
Democrats have been calling for their GOP colleagues to embrace new gun regulations, while admitting legislation to expand background checks probably would not have stopped shooter Stephen Paddock from acquiring his weapons.
“One of the things we’ve learned from these shootings is that often underneath this is a diagnosis of mental illness. This is why we spent years working on mental illness reform, Congressman Murphy’s bill. And that’s why the House of Representative passed landmark mental health reform just a year ago. That law is now being implemented,” Ryan told reporters outside of a closed caucus meeting on Capitol Hill today.
“So I think it’s important that, as we see the dust settle and we see what was behind some these tragedies, that mental health reform is a critical ingredient to making sure that we can try and prevent some of these things from happening in the past,” he added. “So that’s just one example of the things that Congress has done to make sure that we can try and get ahead of these problems.”
Officials have said Paddock had no known history of mental illness.
Ryan said the sportsmen’s bill that included relaxation of requirements on purchasing gun silencers wouldn’t be coming up soon; “I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled.”
“Right now, we’re focused on passing our budget. By the way, we’re bringing our budget up this week. I don’t know if you knew that, but we’re bringing our budget up this week,” he said. “The reason we’re bringing our budget up this week is we want to pass tax reform, because we think that’s one of the most important things we can do to improve people’s lives.”
It was the first caucus media availability for Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) since returning to Congress after being critically wounded in the June shooting at a GOP baseball practice.
“Those families need our prayers right now. They need to be uplifted,” Scalise said of the Vegas shooting. “And we also need as people are saying what can we do to help, we also need to remember that there is a tremendous loss of blood, and go to your local blood bank and just donate blood. That alone can be a very positive sign, especially when you look at how much blood was lost, and probably will need to continue to be used at the local hospitals as people continue to be treated.”
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) lost three constituents in the attack on the country music festival.
“Bailey Schweitzer — she was a 20-year-old girl just attended Centennial High School, big country music fan; family owns the Bakersfield Speedway. She was there with her mother and friends. She was one of the best friends to my district director’s daughter, live three doors down,” McCarthy said. “Jack Beaton, a father of two, and he was celebrating his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife. When the shots rang out, he jumped in front of his wife and gave the ultimate sacrifice for the one he loved.”
“Victor Link, 55 years old, was born in Shafter. His family still lives there,” he added. “Inside the hospital, I have a Bakersfield police officer, off-duty. Officer Aaron Mundhenke. He had hip surgery yesterday… he’ll make a good recovery. I have another young lady in the ICU.”
McCarthy and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) will be accompanying President Trump when he visits Vegas on Wednesday.
“When we talk about Nevada resilience, you know, Las Vegas is the world’s fun place. And so what happened a couple of days ago definitely doesn’t fit that description,” Amodei said. “But when you talk about the Nevada resilience and the outpouring of support not only from around the state of Nevada, but also the country and the nation, it’s a pretty humbling thing and it’s a pretty humbling time for everybody to try to sort out what’s going on.”
“But there’s time in the coming weeks to find those answers and do those sorts of things that we need to do, and see what lessons are learned,” the congressman said. “But I think right now, it’s just that, you know, the humility, thoughts and prayers to those folks that are affected, both those that are here and those that are gone. And thank you all for your support on behalf of the Silver State, Nevada resilience.”