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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 15, 2021

Assault weapon ban continues to languish in both chambers of Congress

As president, Joe Biden has been so far unsuccessful advancing one of his key agenda items: a ban on assault weapons, which have been used in a range of high-profile mass shootings.

In both chambers of Congress, Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would make it "unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a semiautomatic assault weapon." The bill includes a lengthy section defining the term "semiautomatic assault weapon," but the phrase broadly refers to a firearm that is able to fire, in quick succession, one shot per trigger pull.

The House version has attracted 204 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, while the Senate version has attracted 37 cosponsors, also all Democrats. While theco-sponsors account for large proportions of the Democratic caucuses in the two chambers, they are not enough by themselves to pass the bills, given near-universal Republican opposition.

Even though the Democrats have control of both chambers, neither bill has advanced beyond its initial introduction.

The House did pass legislation in March 2021 that would require background checks on most commercial firearm purchases and close what advocates call loopholes in the background check process. However, these are considered non-starters in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans would be needed to break an all-but-certain filibuster.

"The filibuster has prevented the Senate from passing similar legislation for nearly a decade, including background checks legislation as well as bills to strengthen federal limits on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," said Ari Freilich, state policy director at Giffords, a group that advocates for tighter restrictions on guns. "The Senate has been a primary obstacle to passage of stronger laws" on guns.

We rate the promise Stalled.

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