Mostly False
"Paul Ryan has blocked all action to strengthen our gun laws."  

Giffords on Tuesday, March 13th, 2018 in an ad

Gabrielle Giffords group claims gun-rights backer Paul Ryan has blocked all gun-control measures

A political action committee named for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has targeted GOP U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan over gun legislation.

After the Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead, news reports said U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan had thrown cold water on, and shown little interest in, new proposals for gun control.

But an attack on the Wisconsin Republican by Giffords PAC, a political action committee named for Gabrielle Giffords, went much further.

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 PAC

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:


Key provision

HR 1217

Reauthorize grants for improvements to the criminal history record system

HR 2216

Prohibits sale of gun to person who is subject to restraining order

HR 3130

Makes it crime to knowingly give/sell gun to person convicted of misdemeanor stalking

HR 1475

Prohibits giving false or misleading material information in connection with a firearm purchase or transfer

HR 1478

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.

Ryan’s response

To refute the attack, Ryan’s campaign organization cited three measures that passed the House:


Key provisions

HR 2646

More beds for people with mental illness who need short-term hospitalization

HR 4909

Grants to improve school security, including with metal detectors, and to fund training, threat assessments, school and police coordination

HR 38

Let people with concealed carry license bring guns across state lines; strengthen National Instant Criminal Background Check System


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.

Our rating

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.

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Mostly False
"Paul Ryan has blocked all action to strengthen our gun laws."
In an online ad
Tuesday, March 13, 2018