WASHINGTON — With a push from the Biden administration, a group of Democratic lawmakers filed a bill Wednesday to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in most mass shootings, including the Oct. 1, 2017, tragedy in Las Vegas.
Republicans, backed by gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association, have opposed legislation restricting purchase and possession of weapons and accessories that they say infringe on Second Amendment rights.
But President Joe Biden has backed a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles and is urging Congress to move forward on legislation to tighten background checks, as well as other common sense measures.
Democratic lawmakers — including Rep. Dina Titus and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, both of Nevada — filed bicameral legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines.
“Enough is enough,” Titus said. “Families in Las Vegas and across the country know all too well the deadly consequences of inaction.”
The Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting on Oct. 1, 2017 claimed the lives of 60 people and left hundreds more injured.
“Firearms with high-capacity magazines have no place in our classrooms, concert venues or communities,” Titus said.
An attempt to ban bump stocks by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the Trump administration was overturned in March by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the Gun Owners of America that the ban violated constitutional rights.
Biden this month announced his intention to nominate David Chipman as ATF director.
Chipman is a retired special agent of the agency who went on the serve as an adviser to gun control groups, including one started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
Chipman supports an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, as well as a ban on “ghost guns” that can be ordered online and assembled from kits without serial numbers.
The Firearm Industry Trade Association opposes the Chipman nomination.
Chipman would face a Senate vote for confirmation. The chamber is divided politically, 50-50, with Democrats in control through the vice president’s tie-breaking vote.
Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has not said publicly if he would support Chipman’s nomination, but he has spoken out against two House bills passed this year that would tighten background checks and reporting requirements to purchase weapons.
Steep hurdle for bills
The House bills on background checks appear dead in the Senate because of the legislative threshold of 60 votes needed to bring bills to the floor for a final vote. Similarly, the legislation to ban high-capacity magazines filed Wednesday faces that steep hurdle of Republican opposition. The legislation died in the last session of Congress, and only Democratic senators have co-sponsored it this year.
Biden, in an executive order on gun control, called for a ban on high-capacity magazines used in nearly all recent mass shootings.
Rep. Ted Deutch, a co-sponsor of the magazine ban bill, quoted Biden in saying that there was no need for 100-, 50- or 30-round magazines for sport or self-defense.
“These are magazines of choice in mass shootings because they maximize human casualties,” said Deutch, whose congressional district includes Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were killed by a gunman in 2018.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that while the House bills on background checks appear dead in the Senate, he’s hopeful that Senate legislation could be written to strengthen checks and attract the 10 GOP votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Murphy has pursued gun control since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut in 2012 that left 26 dead, including 20 children.
“I’m sick and tired of this issue being a political cudgel,” Murphy said. “I would much rather get something done, and I’m, you know, very willing to. I’m very willing to compromise.”