House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday said Congress is focusing on “mental illness reform” to prevent mass shootings in the future, but defended Congress’ passage in February of a bill revoking a regulation preventing certain people with mental illnesses from buying guns.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot in June during a Republican congressional baseball practice, said at Ryan’s weekly press conference that he and his wife were praying “for the people that were involved in the Nevada shooting.”
“I continue to just let everybody know who prayed for me during those tough times how much it meant,” Scalise said of his own recovery. “It was tremendously uplifting and gave me and my family a lot of strength during those tough times.”
“We’re all just reeling from this horror that we witnessed in Las Vegas,” Ryan added.
He called the shooting, which left 59 people dead and hundreds more injured, “just awful.”
Asked what Congress is doing to try and prevent such tragedies in the future, Ryan cited “mental illness reform.”
“So then was it a mistake to make it easier for mentally ill people to get a gun?” a reporter asked.
Congress in February passed a bill rolling back an Obama-era regulation that would have added Social Security beneficiaries with mental illnesses assigned a financial manager to the national background check database as ineligible for gun ownership.
Ryan dismissed the question and moved on to another reporter, who pressed him on the same subject.
“There were people whose rights were being infringed,” Ryan replied. “It’s a little more complicated than you’re describing.”
He added, “Protecting people’s rights was very important, and that’s what that issue was all about.”