After Mass Shootings, Collins Hears New Tone in Gun Debate Among Senate GOP

"I've been talking to my colleagues. It is my hope that we can finally come together and pass legislation," she said

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says the gun control debate following the weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, feels different, even among Republican senators.

That comment comes from a veteran senator who has tried to spearhead bipartisan gun reform efforts before, many of which failed.

Collins told necn she was "horrified" to find out at least 31 people had been killed in the most recent shootings, which both came days after a fatal shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California.

Now she's calling for "comprehensive change," and after a Tuesday Alzheimer's Foundation of America event in Portland, said that lawmakers are talking and working on gun reform despite Congress being in the midst of a weekslong summer recess.

"That is going on as we speak," she said. "I've been talking to my colleagues. It is my hope that we can finally come together and pass legislation."

Collins she's had conversations with leaders like Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman indicating a new tone to the debate and thinks the Senate Judiciary Committee could have a "red flag" plan soon.

She's not sure cancelling Congress' summer recess would help because it's allowing time for that dialogue to happen and a plan to be drafted that could be voted on promptly once lawmakers go back to Washington.

Collins said she still supports a failed effort she led for a "no fly, no buy" law that would prevent anyone who is barred by the federal government from boarding commercial airplanes from being able to purchase a firearm.

She also said Congress should look at providing additional mental health services and close background check loopholes.

But she stopped short of naming federal lawmakers who've stood in the way of those efforts that she would like to convince otherwise.

"I don't like singling out colleagues because I don't think that's effective in getting them to join you," she said. "We need to have a national conversation as well as a conversation in D.C."

Outside Tuesday's event, a small crowd of protesters gathered, standing outside each of the venue's exits waiting to confront Collins.

"I wanted her to push [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell to have an emergency senate meeting on gun control," Livia Kunins-Berkowitz said. "I think we need it now, too many people are dying in our malls, our schools and places of worship."

Kunins-Berkowitz was able to have an exchange with Collins but felt disappointed by the senator's response.

"She said it's an important issue," Kunins-Berkowitz said. "It's not enough to say it, we need action right now."

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