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House Democrats Must Herd At Least Seven More Cosigners To Pass Assault Weapons Ban

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  • The majority of House Democrats want an assault weapons ban, but they are still seven co-sponsors short of passing legislation.
  • Democrats have been critical of the president’s changing stance on stronger background-check legislation since mass shootings left over 50 people dead in the month of August alone.
  • Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie said House Democrats “want to take your guns,” but aren’t “sure politically” if they can do so and still maintain the majority.

House Democrats have not garnered enough support to pass legislation banning assault weapons while President Donald Trump has come under scrutiny for not actively pursuing stronger gun background checks.

The majority of House Democrats are co-sponsoring H.R. 1296, which “makes it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD).”

The bill, however, needs 218 co-sponsors to pass; right now, it has 211, including New York Republican Rep. Peter King, The New York Times reported Wednesday. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s related Senate bill – S. 66 — has 32 co-sponsors.

Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who authored the House bill, said an assault weapons ban is “an important way to reduce gun violence and to protect people from the carnage of mass shootings,” according to Newsweek.

A House Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss assault weapons is set for Sept. 25.

House Democrats also plan to advance three other measures that will: limit the sales of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, make it easier for judges to take guns away from people who may pose a threat to civilians and bar convicted criminals from purchases firearms, NYT reported.

Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, chairman of the House Second Amendment Caucus, told The Washington Post he spent his August recess “making fun of people who say, ‘Nobody wants to take your guns.”

“Don’t tell me that,” he said. “I serve with the people that want to take your guns. What they should say is: We want to take your guns, but we’re not sure politically we can achieve that and keep our majority, and we know the president won’t sign it, so we’re not gonna take your guns yet.”

Democratic politicians, including 13 Democratic presidential candidates, have placed a large emphasis on banning assault weapons in the U.S. More than 50 people were killed in mass shootings during August.

Former President Bill Clinton wrote a TIME magazine op-ed in August calling for the comeback of a 1994 assault weapons ban.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) points out an advertisement for an assault weapon during a news briefing, May 8, 2003 on Capitol Hill. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Sen. Dianne Feinstein points out an advertisement for an assault weapon during a news briefing, May 8, 2003 on Capitol Hill. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

“Elected officials speak about the need for change,” Clinton wrote. “But the tragedies do keep happening, while the one thing that we know can reduce the number and the death tolls of mass shootings has not been done: reinstituting the ban on assault weapons and the limit on high-capacity magazines that was in effect from 1994 to 2004.”

A 2004 study the National Institute of Justice supported, which “details the effects of the 10-year ban on assault weapons enacted by Congress in 1994,” concluded researchers could not “clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”

The study found a 17% drop in assault weapon violence; however, the reduction “was offset throughout at least the late 1990s by steady or rising use of other guns” that used limited capacity magazines.

“Generally, I’m not supportive of bans, because I think that we have to focus on sensible gun legislation that we can actually get passed,” Democratic New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi said, according to Newsweek.

“And when you have nine out of 10 Americans saying that they support something like background checks, to me, that’s where we should be focusing the bulk of our energy right now when it comes to gun legislation,” he continued.

Democrats have been critical of the president for his backtracking on stricter gun background checks despite struggling to gain full support for H.R. 1296, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 15.

Trump said he was “all in favor” of requiring background checks for gun purchases during an Aug. 7 White House press gathering after a shooting in El Paso, Texas, left 22 dead and another in Dayton, Ohio, left nine dead in August. (RELATED: At Least 19 Adults, Eight Minors Have Been Arrested For Mass-Killing Threats Since El Paso)

“There’s a great appetite — and I mean a very strong appetite — for background checks, and I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before. I think both Republicans and Democrats are getting close to a bill. They’re doing something on background checks,” he said at the time.

The president appeared to flip his stance on the issue on Aug. 20.

“People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now,” he told reporters while leaving New Jersey, adding that he is “very, very concerned with the Second Amendment.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the president’s change in stance “heartbreaking.”

“We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard right. These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking,” he said, according to Politico.

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