On gun control, Ayanna Pressley says bipartisanship is ‘not the goal’


“The goal is impact. The goal is saving lives.”

T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times

As Democrats and Republicans in Congress appear to remain sharply divided over gun control policy in the wake of the nation’s latest mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley on Wednesday expressed doubts about how willing she would be to make compromises with her colleagues across the aisle.

Appearing on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio,” the Boston lawmaker laid out several measures she wants to see picked up by her colleagues on Capitol Hill, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, raising the legal age to purchase a firearm to 21, and “red flag” laws.

Polls show majorities of American adults agree with Pressley on at least some of those initiatives, or — at the very least — that mass shootings would happen less frequently if guns were harder to obtain.

Most notably, approximately 80 to 90 percent of Americans support background checks as a requirement for gun transactions, surveys show.

But Congress has been slow to act in the decade since a gunman murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, and as mass shootings have risen exponentially since the previous federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

House Democrats are now, however, looking to move quickly on several bills seeking to raise the legal purchase age for certain firearms and crackdown on weapons trafficking, among other initiatives. A vote could come sometime next week, according to U.S. News & World Report.

A bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers are, meanwhile, meeting this week over a separate proposal, as Democrats in that chamber try to capitalize on possible Republican support of a background check expansion.

When asked how likely she would be to compromise to make sure at least some legislation makes it on the books, Pressley said she wasn’t sure.

“The goal is not bipartisanship. The goal is justice,” Pressley said, reiterating one of her common sayings. “The goal is impact. The goal is saving lives

“And I think, I don’t know how much should I be willing to compromise when we’re talking about our children, our elders, our educators,” she added.

Pressley said she’s grateful though for the Democrat-led House to be making some movement on the issue, but lamented “it’s taken this much loss for us to move.”

Still, lawmakers must continue on because the “stakes are too high,” she said.

“I have to do it,” Pressley said. “I can’t look my 13-year-old daughter in the face in good conscience, not knowing that I am exhausting every tool available.”

She also implored Republicans to step up and follow suit.

“As far as the GOP is concerned, I mean, it just seems that Senate Republicans have really contempt for the American people — on everything,” Pressley said. “They just have shown us that time and time again.

“And so it’s time for my colleagues across the aisle to grow a spine. Stand up to this gun lobby and join us in making these long overdue changes to our gun laws to help prevent these tragedies from happening over and over again. We can’t continue to do nothing in the face of these massacres. This is about saving lives.”

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