Democrats take aim at bump stocks as GOP pans ‘political exercise’

Senate Democrats are making a push this week to ban bump stocks after the Supreme Court overturned a Trump-era federal rule that banned the device, which allows semiautomatic weapons to fire off hundreds of rounds per minute.

The effort will come to a head Tuesday when Democrats plan to attempt to pass legislation that would ban bump stocks via unanimous consent, which Republicans are widely expected to block.

Despite the appetite among Democrats for action, they widely believe Republicans have little interest in moving any firearms legislation during election season — even though some have been supportive of the effort in the past and the bump stock ban was enacted under Trump.

“There’s a lot of Republicans that said they were for it, but wanted the Trump administration to do it, so let’s see if all those Republicans who said that we should ban bump stocks are still willing to do it now,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters.

“I think it’ll be difficult, but I haven’t counted votes,” Murphy continued. “This should be a lot easier than it is. This seems to me to be open and shut.”

Republicans, meanwhile, on Monday accused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of playing politics on the issue and complained of a lack of outreach.

“If he were serious about it, he would be calling people into a room who’ve worked on bipartisan bills and say, ‘I know I’ve got an unwilling House. How do we produce a bipartisan outcome?’” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is known for his involvement in numerous bipartisan efforts in recent years, including on guns.

“Instead he’s going to do a [unanimous consent request] and say all Republicans are against it in spite of the fact that he’s dealing with one person who was willing to get it right on the Safer Communities Act.”

“It’s a political exercise. It’s a shame,” Tillis continued, accusing the Democratic leader of “poisoning the well” on the matter.

The ban on bump stocks was put in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) under former President Trump in 2018 following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 people and wounded hundreds of others.

But the court’s decision to nix the rule left members grasping at how to move forward after Justice Samuel Alito suggested in a concurring opinion that congressional action is a “simple remedy” on this issue. Senators note the process is far from simple.

“Practically speaking, probably not,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) when asked if there was any runway for members to work toward a resolution. “But we need to do it to draw the contrast, put Republicans on the record, and also to give our side an opportunity to show where we are.”

“The political insanity of this moment has left us without protection against machine guns, and the ones who will rejoice are the criminals and the mass shooters,” he added.

The ATF’s rule, which continued into the Biden administration, made possessing a bump stock a criminal offense by classifying them as machine guns. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was too broad.

Schumer rolled out his party’s response Monday, saying on the floor that Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) bill will be brought up for the unanimous consent request.

“Passing a bill banning bump stocks should be the work of five minutes. Most Americans support this step,” Schumer said. “I understand that the issue of gun safety provokes intense disagreement in Congress. But shouldn’t we all agree that preventing another tragedy like Las Vegas is just plain common sense and a good thing?”

The New York Democrat also noted the work the chamber did following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, two years ago. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act became the most notable piece of firearm reform in nearly three decades.

“Democrats are ready to pass gun safety once again as soon as tomorrow. The question is, are Republicans ready to join us?” Schumer said.

The initial answer from Republicans was mixed. Multiple GOP members indicated they were not averse to legislation on the issue, including Tillis and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who led the talks for Republicans on the 2022 law.

The latest Democratic move on guns comes amid a monthlong effort on reproductive rights. Schumer signaled Monday that he would soon bring a bill that would codify abortion protections that were decided in Roe v. Wade and overturned two years ago. The chamber has held what Republicans have dubbed show votes in recent weeks on contraception and in vitro fertilization.

Some allies of Trump believe this falls squarely in that category and argue that Schumer’s sole goal is to help Democrats at the ballot box this year.

“I think it’s a huge distraction,” said Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), who is believed to be on Trump’s shortlist to be his running mate. “This is week three of Chuck Schumer focusing on fake problems instead of real problems.”

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