Thirty-five Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to ban “assault weapons” including popular AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles, citing concern about “domestic terrorism” following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Lead sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) enlisted a majority of her Democratic colleagues as co-sponsors of the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2021.”
“To be clear, this bill saves lives. When it was in place from 1994-2004, gun massacres declined by 37 percent compared with the decade before. After the ban expired, the number of massacres rose by 183 percent,” Feinstein said in a statement.
“We’re now seeing a rise in domestic terrorism, and military-style assault weapons are increasingly becoming the guns of choice for these dangerous groups.”
Democrats frequently use the term “domestic terrorism” to refer to the actions of groups associated with a mob of President Donald Trump supporters who fought police to break into the Capitol and disrupt certification of President Biden’s election victory.
The bill, introduced Thursday, faces long odds in the evenly split Senate, where 60 votes usually are required for bills. A companion bill introduced in the Democrat-held House by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) could have a better chance in the lower chamber.
Proposals to ban guns typically result in gun owners rushing to buy more of them.
AR-15s are popular among gun rights advocates including for self-defense but also are a weapon of choice for mass shootings. There are an estimated 10 million to 20 million legally owned AR-15s and similar weapons in the US.
Feinstein’s bill exempts from the ban weapons purchased before the hypothetical enactment date, though it also proposes a voluntary buy-back program.
The bill bans by name more than 200 gun types, including AR-15-style, AK-47 and Uzi models.
A fact sheet distributed by Feinstein’s office points out that semi-automatic rifles were used to commit notable massacres, including the 2012 slaughter of 27 at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the killing of 17 at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 and the mass murder of 58 at a 2017 country music concert in Las Vegas.
House Democrats on Thursday passed two narrower gun control bills that would restrict private sales of guns without federal background checks and expand the window for feds to vet buyers from three to 10 days. The bills passed mostly along party lines and are likely to be defeated in the Senate, where Republicans hold 50 seats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to take the legislation up in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“In the past, when they sent it over to us last time, it went into [former Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard. The legislative graveyard is over.
“H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands. No more hopes and prayers, thoughts and prayers. A vote is what we need, a vote, not thoughts and prayers,” he said, referencing the well wishes many offer in response to mass shootings.
The Senate Democrats who are not original co-sponsors of Feinstein’s further-reaching bill are Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Max Baucus of Montana, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Gary Peters of Michigan, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, also is not an original co-sponsor.