WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Thursday his party has tried everything to get gun control legislation through Congress and still keeps losing to the National Rifle Association.
Reid said Democrats themselves may be to blame — or maybe voters are gullible, even after multiple mass shootings.
The comments from the Nevada Democrat in an interview with The Associated Press reflect frustrations in his caucus, where some lawmakers are deeply perturbed over congressional inaction on guns. Several attempts by Democrats to force votes on the issue this month failed to garner even a Senate majority in favor of background checks or keeping suspected terrorists from buying guns.
“We’ve tried everything, so maybe we are to blame. Or maybe the American people are gullible to these NRA folks,” said Reid, himself a one-time NRA ally who appeared with the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, to open a new gun range while running for re-election in 2010.
Now Reid is a year away from retiring from the Senate after five terms.
“Why wouldn’t it be realistic to do something about gun control?” he asked. “Why should somebody that’s crazy or a criminal be able to buy a gun? Why should somebody that’s on a terrorist watch list be able to buy a gun?”
Yet Republicans have opposed all such measures and voice no concerns about political vulnerability on the issue, even after the shooting in San Bernardino, California, this month. Efforts by congressional gun control advocates following the slaughter of kids and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago also went nowhere.
The NRA has proven effective in the past at turning out voters to punish lawmakers who cross them on votes. Democrats have not organized effectively against the group, as Reid acknowledged.
The preferred GOP approach to dealing with mass shootings is to focus on mental health legislation, which House GOP leaders say they want to see advance.