WASHINGTON -- If Democrats really cared about gun violence, they would have done something about it when they were running Washington, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) charged Wednesday.
Boehner was responding to a question about whether or not Congress should reconsider barring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence as a health issue, especially since Republicans have repeatedly argued that addressing mental illness is the way to prevent mass shootings.
Congress has been writing restrictions against such study since the late 1990s.
Boehner said the the topic has not come up in his talks.
"I don’t think there’s been any discussions at this point. It’s not been part of the discussions," he told reporters on Capitol Hill before expressing sympathy for the nine people killed and nine more wounded in last week's massacre in Roseburg, Oregon.
"We’ve seen far too many of these," Boehner said, before putting the onus on Democrats.
"In '09 and '10, we had Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. We had a Democrat president. And this clearly was not a priority for them. The president can rail all he wants," Boehner said, referring to President Barack Obama's angry denunciation last week of Congress' failure to address the issue.
Indeed, the gun legislation that Congress considered in 2009 and 2010 tended to expand gun rights.
However, there have been numerous proposals since then, starting after the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the horrific slaughter of children in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Bills to restrict magazine capacity and assault weapons have gone nowhere. Even popular bipartisan measures to strengthen background checks have failed.
Asked specifically about whether or not the current background check system was working well enough, Boehner demurred. "I'm not the expert on each of the individual policies, but I would like to see us work together on finding effective ways to reduce these horrific incidents," he said.
Instead, Boehner again said Congress needs to focus on mental illness, although he did not offer a specific proposal.
"Let’s talk about what can we do to make sure that people with serious mental illness don't have access to weapons," he said. "Let’s quit fighting over this, and let’s start thinking about how, what’s doable and what would have an impact."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.