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Beyond Background Checks, Nearly 200 House Democrats Sign on for Federal Assault Weapons Ban

"Meaningful action doesn't end with signing a bipartisan background checks bill."

Protestor Mary Jacobs holds a sign while demonstrating outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on August 6, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. About 200 Democratic members of the House now support a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons, while the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate are reportedly discussing possible gun control legislation. (Photo: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

Amid reports the Trump administration is in talks with senators on possible background check legislation for gun purchases, nearly 200 House Democrats have signed onto a more far-reaching effort to re-institute a federal ban on semi-automatic weapons like those used in a number of recent mass shootings.

"It takes no courage to put on the Senate floor a bill that is supported by 90 percent of America. What takes courage is to look a special interest group in the eye and say enough is enough, it's time to act."
—Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

Following this month's massacres in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the Democratic Party has nearly reached the threshold needed to pass H.R. 5087, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, which was introduced last year by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). With 198 co-sponsors, just 20 more supporters are needed to pass the legislation in the House.

The bill would ban military-style semi-automatic guns, commonly called assault weapons, and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones that were used in El Paso and Dayton.

The grassroots group Newtown Action, founded in the wake of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, called on all Democrats in the House to back the legislation, which according to polls would be supported by most Americans.

Seven in 10 Americans support a ban on assault weapons, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult survey, including more than half of Republican voters.

A vast majority of people—about 90 percent—also back the universal background checks legislation which the Trump administration is reportedly discussing with senators including two authors of similar legislation that failed to pass in 2013, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), as well as leading gun control advocate Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

But some House Democrats are arguing that lawmakers must be more ambitious than pushing simply for strengthened background checks—as Republicans like President Donald Trump insist that lawmakers continue to take the powerful pro-gun lobby's views into consideration.

"It takes no courage to put on the Senate floor a bill that is supported by 90 percent of America," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday. "What takes courage is to look a special interest group in the eye and say enough is enough, it's time to act."

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"Meaningful action doesn't end with signing a bipartisan background checks bill, which is important," Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), told The Hill. "We have to ban high-capacity magazines that allowed the Dayton shooter and so many others to fire off tens of rounds in merely seconds. We have to ban assault weapons to get these weapons of war off our streets."

House Democrats are pushing for the legislation as 2020 presidential candidates call for assault weapons bans as well. A ban on assault weapons as well as an executive order mandating universal background checks for gun purchasers were both included in Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) gun control plan, released last week. Former Vice President Joe Biden also said this week that if elected president he would reinstate the assault weapons ban which was passed by Congress in 1994 and lapsed in 2004.

President Donald Trump claimed this week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who has refused to bring the background checks bill passed by the House in February to the Senate floor—is now "on board" with the legislation.

Gun control advocates called on Americans to pressure McConnell to not only bring the background checks bill to the floor but also to represent the views of most Americans by passing an assault weapons ban.

To make sure gun control action doesn't stop at the potential passage of H.R. 8, the background checks bill, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) told The Hill, "We will have to pressure and shame McConnell and the Senate, and pressure the American people to do the same."

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