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With Biden’s Support, Democrats Push Assault Weapons Ban After Deadly Shootings

Biden said last week that it is “sick” that the U.S. still allows the sale of semi-automatic weapons.

Photographs of victims of a weekend mass shooting at a nearby gay nightclub are on display at a memorial on November 23, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, Democrats are pushing for the Senate to pass an assault weapons ban before Republicans take control of the House in January.

Last Thursday, President Joe Biden renewed his call for Congress to pass an assault weapons ban after shootings at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, and at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, left 11 dead and dozens injured. There have been over 600 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, putting 2022 on track to become the second-highest year for gun violence on record.

“The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick. It’s just sick. It has no, no social redeeming value, zero, none. Not a single solitary rationale for it except profits for gun manufacturers,” Biden said. “I’m going to try. I’m going to try to get rid of assault weapons.”

The House passed an assault weapons ban earlier this year that would ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importing of certain military-style assault weapons that have become the weapon of choice for many mass shooters. The bill would still allow people to keep guns they already own, but could prevent shooters from obtaining guns just before carrying out a shooting, as many shooters have done, including the Walmart gunman.

However, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) predicted over the weekend that Democrats wouldn’t have the votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, likely marking another potentially life-saving bill stopped in its tracks by the archaic rule.

“I’m glad that President (Joe) Biden is gonna be pushing us to take a vote on an assault weapons ban,” Murphy said in a CNN interview on Sunday. “Does it have 60 votes in the Senate right now? Probably not. But let’s see if we can try to get that number as close to 60 as possible.”

“If we don’t have the votes, then we’ll talk to [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer and maybe come back next year, with maybe an additional senator, and see if we can do better,” he went on.

He said that lawmakers need to discuss the fact that there are many counties where right-wing law enforcement officials aren’t enforcing state or federal gun restrictions, including in the Colorado county where the anti-LGBTQ shooting took place. He also suggested refusing to send federal funding to such counties.

The next few weeks could be Democrats’ last chance to pass an assault weapons ban for at least two years. Republicans, who have a close relationship with the gun lobby, are unlikely to pass an assault weapons ban in the House, which they are slated to control by a slim majority in the upcoming Congress; even if a few Republicans would vote for the bill if it came to the floor, as two Republicans did earlier this year, it’s unlikely that Republican leaders would bring the ban to a vote in the first place.

Biden had urged the Senate to pass the assault weapons ban after it was passed by the House in July following a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and a racist shooting in Buffalo, New York, in May, which left a total of over 30 people dead, including 19 children.

At the time, the White House released a statement of administration policy — which carries more weight than a simple public statement — pointing to the reduction in gun deaths in the 10 years following the 1994 assault weapons ban. “For those 10 years, mass shootings declined. When the ban expired in 2004, mass shootings tripled,” the statement read.

Congress increased its scrutiny of gun manufacturers following this summer’s shootings, and the House Oversight Committee found in a report that major gun companies have made over $1 billion in revenue on sales of assault weapons over the last 10 years. Such companies have sold the guns behind infamous shootings like the school shootings in Uvalde and Parkland, Florida; the Las Vegas massacre in 2017; and the mass killing at a gay nightclub in Florida in 2016.

These manufacturers are increasingly marketing to young people, creating “a gun violence epidemic by liberalizing markets and aggressively pursuing profits,” as Jonathan Ng wrote for Truthout earlier this year. Mass shooters are often young; the anti-LGBTQ Colorado Springs shooter is 22, while the Uvalde shooter bought the guns that he would use to massacre children shortly after his 18th birthday.