Top Republicans 'feeling the heat' on gun control, Warren says

The 2020 hopeful credited the potential for Congress to act on gun control to activist pressure.
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Elizabeth Warren greets supporters at a rally in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Aug. 9, 2019.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images

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By Ali Vitali and Olivia Santini

HUMBOLDT, Iowa — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, said Friday that Republicans are "feeling the heat" when it comes to acting on gun control following the deadly mass shootings last weekend in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, the 2020 hopeful credited sustained pressure from activists across the country, saying “every group that is organized, every group that has pushed” is why Senate Majority Leader "Mitch McConnell is changing his tune a little bit" on the issue.

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McConnell, who has fiercely opposed gun restrictions throughout his 35-year Senate career, seemed to leave the door open to action on gun measures after the August recess in an interview with a local Kentucky radio station. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has been vocal in recent days about wanting to pursue action on background checks. A shooting in Gilroy, California just a week prior to the massacres in Dayton and El Paso touched out what would become a firestorm of criticism over McConnell's refusal to bring up House-passed gun control legislation.

Asked if she buys the shift in tone from the two Republicans, Warren said, “Both of these guys, they want to have it both ways."

"They want to have a press conference where they can say, ‘Oh, yes, I'm in favor of this piece of gun legislation or that piece of gun legislation,’ and then, practically in the same breath, say, ‘If the NRA approves...'" Warren said. "And so far, the NRA has said, ‘No, no, no.’ The gun lobbyists have said, ‘No, no, no’ to any kind of changes."

Warren — and more than a dozen of her Democratic counterparts also vying for the party’s presidential nomination — will address gun control Saturday in Des Moines at a forum sponsored by gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The Massachusetts senator also advocated Friday for retailer Walmart to stop selling firearms.

While Warren has been outspoken about gun control, she has also targeted Trump on the trail in recent days, calling him a white supremacist. Asked by NBC News Friday what that says about the millions of people who voted for him, Warren said “this is about the president and his responsibility."

"A president bears real responsibility for his leadership, and Donald Trump doesn't get to get off the hook on that."