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Assault weapons ban campaigners

Gun control activists rally near the U.S. Capitol calling for a federal ban on assault weapons on July 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

After House Passes Assault Weapons Ban, Advocates Say Senate Opponents Must Be Forced to Vote

The bill stands virtually no chance of passing in the Senate, but campaigners said a vote would "show young people why we need to turn out to expand [Democrats'] majority in the Senate."

Julia Conley

With little hope that the evenly divided U.S. Senate will approve the historic, long-awaited assault weapons ban that passed in the House Friday, gun control advocates called on Democratic leaders to hold a vote on the legislation and on filibuster reform, a move one campaigner said would force opponents to go on the record as being tolerant of "random slaughter."

"Leader [Chuck] Schumer needs to get his caucus in line and if not, make Manchin and Sinema go on record that they're okay with children being slaughtered."

For the first time since the 1994 assault weapons ban expired in 2004, the U.S. House passed the bill in a 217-213 vote, with seven lawmakers crossing party lines.

Every Democrat except Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Jared Golden (Maine), and Ron Kind (Wisc.) supported the legislation, and Republican Reps. Chris Jacobs (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Penn.) joined the Democratic Party in voting for it.

The bill would prohibit people from selling, manufacturing, transferring, owning, or importing assault weapons like the AR-15—used in numerous mass shootings in recent years including the ones in Uvalde, Texas; Parkland, Florida; and Newtown, Connecticut—and high-capacity ammunition devices.

Studies have shown clear links between the expiration of the assault weapons ban and mass shootings. Research published in 2021 by Northwestern University showed that 10 mass shootings were likely prevented over the 10 years it was in place and that 30 mass shootings which have happened since then could have been prevented, and 339 lives could have been saved, by a ban.

As Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), noted after the House's passage, a 2019 study estimated that the previous ban reduced casualties from mass shootings by 70%.

"Now, the Senate must heed President Biden's call to get this vital legislation to his desk, and take up this bill without delay," Jayapal said.

Some gun control advocates joined the call for the Senate to pass the bill, while others including former Democratic Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner said lawmakers should focus on reforming the filibuster, which requires the Democrats to convince 10 Republicans to vote with them for the ban—and pressuring right-wing Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) to support reform.

"Leader [Chuck] Schumer needs to get his caucus in line and if not, make Manchin and Sinema go on record that they're okay with children being slaughtered," said Turner. "Enough is enough."

Kai Newkirk, co-founder of a campaign to fund a future primary challenger to Sinema if she continues to stand in the way of her own party's agenda, agreed that senators from both parties must be forced to go on the record on gun control and the steps they will—or won't—take to make sure it passes.

Holding a vote on the assault weapons ban—which is supported by six in 10 Americans—is unlikely to result in passage in the current Senate, but it would "show young people why we need to turn out to expand [Democrats'] majority in the Senate" in the midterm elections, said March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg.

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