After Texas Shooting, Senate Democrats Step Up With Major Gun Safety Legislation

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Not content with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn proposing legislation that would tighten background checks, Senate Democrats are moving forward to ban assault weapons in reaction to the mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas. In addition, the senators want to ban the manufacturing and sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and bump stocks, which modify semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons.

Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein of California leads nearly two dozen democrats in introducing this legislation in the wake of the mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs Baptist church in Texas. She previously proposed similar legislation after the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, which left 59 people dead and many more injured.

"We’re introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason: so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote," Feinstein said in a released statement.

"This bill won’t stop every mass shooting, but it will begin removing these weapons of war from our streets. The first Assault Weapons Ban was just starting to show an effect when the NRA stymied its reauthorization in 2004. Yes, it will be a long process to reduce the massive supply of these assault weapons in our country, but we’ve got to start somewhere."

On Twitter Wednesday, Senator Feinstein discussed the details of her bill: "Our bill to  would prohibit the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name. Our bill would ban any assault weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics: pistol grip, forward grip, barrel shroud, threaded barrel or folding or telescoping stock."

"Our bill would ban magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload. Our bill would ban bump-fire stocks and other accessories that increase a semi-automatic weapons rate of fire to that of a machine gun."

In addition, the bill would require a background check on any future trade or sale of an assault weapon included and mentioned by the legislation, require any guns grandfathered under the bill to be securely stored, and prohibit the trade and movement of high capacity magazines.

Feinstein is aware the bill, co-sponsored by 22 Democrats, including fellow California Senator Kamala Harris, has little chance of moving through the Republican-controlled Senate. Feinstein authored the original Assault Weapons Ban that was passed in 1994, but a Republican Congress did not reauthorize it and the ban ended in 2004. She faces intra-party opposition as she seeks reelection in 2018, criticized by other democrats for being too bipartisan, but has received endorsements from Senator Harris and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Semi-automatic rifles, which are assault weapons, have been used in nearly all high-profile and deadly mass shootings over the years, including San Bernadino, Orlando, Las Vegas, and most recently Sutherland Springs, Texas. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had at least a dozen rifles modified with bump stocks.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Feinstein shared on Twitter some recent statistics regarding gun violence in America:

"If we’re going to change our nation's gun laws and get weapons of war off our streets, we need to keep talking about the carnage caused by assault weapons. We need to keep talking about the lives lost.

"July 2012: A gunman walked into a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colo., murdering 12 people and injuring 70. The youngest victim was 6 years old. The gunman had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition in the months prior to the shooting.

"December 2012: A young man entered an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., armed with an assault weapon. He murdered six educators and 20 first graders. One child was shot in the head after telling his classmates to run.

"June 2016: A gunman entered a nightclub in Orlando with an assault rifle, spraying revelers with gunfire. The shooter fired hundreds of rounds and killed 49 people. Many of the victims were shot in the head at close range.

"October 2017: A gunman opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, turning an evening of music into a killing field. The shooter used multiple assault rifles fitted with bump-fire stocks to kill 58 people. This is the deadliest mass shooting in our history—so far.

"November 2017: 26 parishioners praying in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were killed by a gunman with an assault rifle. The dead ranged from 17 months old to 77 years."

You can learn more about the senator's Assault Weapons Ban HERE

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