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Ryan "has blocked all action to strengthen our gun laws," Giffords PAC claimed in an online ad released March 13, 2018.
As the House speaker since October 2015, Ryan holds one of the most powerful positions in Washington, although other lawmakers, such as committee chairs, have influence over the fate of legislation.
And all, of course, is an extreme word.
So, let’s see what the record shows on Ryan and gun laws during his time as speaker.
Giffords is a former Democratic U.S. House member from Arizona. In 2011, she was shot while meeting with constituents in Tucson. The shooter killed six people and wounded 13 others.
Giffords PAC describes itself as backing elected officials and candidates "who step up to fight the gun violence epidemic." Two weeks before releasing the Ryan ad, the PAC launched a campaign that included Ryan as one of six lawmakers on a #VoteThemOut list.
Two Democrats are running for the southern Wisconsin seat held by Ryan, who hasn’t yet announced whether he will run for re-election in November 2018.
The PAC’s evidence
To back its attack on Ryan, Giffords PAC cited a dozen pieces of gun legislation that were pending since Ryan became speaker. Here are five, each of which was referred to a House committee, but was not voted out of that committee for a vote by the full House:
Reauthorize grants for improvements to the criminal history record system
Prohibits sale of gun to person who is subject to restraining order
Makes it crime to knowingly give/sell gun to person convicted of misdemeanor stalking
Prohibits giving false or misleading material information in connection with a firearm purchase or transfer
Ends prohibition on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services using federal funds to promote gun control
Giffords PAC argues that the bills were blocked by Ryan by virtue of the fact that the main power of the House speaker -- as explained by a Washington Post primer on House leadership -- "derives from his or her ability to determine what bills come to the floor for debate and a vote."
But the PAC provided no evidence that Ryan actually took steps to block the bills. And bills can be blocked by other lawmakers, such as committee chairs.
Now to whether there are gun measures that Ryan has not blocked.
To refute the attack, Ryan’s campaign organization cited three measures that passed the House:
The first two bills make no reference to guns, even if the school measure is aimed at fighting gun violence.
The other bill, however, did strengthen background checks, even if it it would also permit additional transportation of guns across state lines.
Ryan’s campaign also argued that Ryan has not stood in the way of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from banning bump stocks -- which accelerate a gun’s firing speed -- with regulations using existing law.
But it’s not clear that ATF could do so without new legislation; indeed, the Justice Department has said it does not have the legal authority under current law to do so. And Ryan has indicated that the House would not take up a bill that would explicitly allow a ban.
Giffords PAC says: "Paul Ryan has blocked all action to strengthen our gun laws."
The anti-gun violence political action committee cited a dozen gun-control measures that didn’t get to a vote in the House. So, it’s clear that Ryan did not move to bring those measures to the floor. But that’s not the same as Ryan himself blocking the measures, given that other lawmakers, such as committee chairs, also have such power.
Also, a bill that would strengthen background checks did pass the House -- although it also expanded gun rights, by making it legal for licensed concealed carry holders to bring guns across state lines.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
YouTube, Giffords ad, released March 13, 2018
Email, Giffords press secretary Jason Phelps, March 13, 2018
Email, Paul Ryan campaign spokesman Jeremy Adler, March 16, 2018
Washington Post, "A House GOP leadership primer: What do the speaker, majority leader and whip actually do?" June 16, 2014
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Paul Ryan targeted by ad from gun safety group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords," March 13, 2018
NBC News, "House Passes Most Significant Mental Health Reform Bill in Decades," July 17, 2016
National Conference of State Legislatures, "House Passes Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act," Dec. 8, 2017
Reuters, "House passes bill to prevent gun violence in schools in rare bipartisan vote," March 14, 2018
Roll Call, "Ryan: Regulatory Bump Stocks Ban ‘Smartest, Quickest Fix,’" Oct. 11, 2017
Washington Post, "As students walk out to mark Parkland shooting, lawmakers take modest steps to address school violence," March 14, 2018
New York Times, "Justice Dept. Proposes Banning Bump Stocks, Setting Aside Its Own Recommendations," March 23, 2018
CBS News, "Trump may want to ban bump stocks, but ATF isn't sure it can," Feb. 22, 2018
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