Republican Congressman Defects & Vows To Support Dems On Gun Control

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A House Democratic push to again ban assault weapons in the United States has earned its first formal Republican supporter. New York Congressman Pete King has signed onto the bill as a cosponsor following a recent wave of his own pushes to address gun violence in the United States, which include serving as a lead sponsor of a bill meant to strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases while Republicans were the majority party in the House. More recently, following a weekend of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that left more than 30 people dead, King also spoke next to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in favor of universal background checks for gun purchases.

King explained his support for the assault weapons ban:

‘They are weapons of mass slaughter. I don’t see any need for them in everyday society… I think the assault weapons ban is timely now, especially in view of the shooting in El Paso and Dayton.’

The ban’s original sponsor Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) spoke out with support for King:

‘These weapons belong on the battlefield, not in our homes, schools, houses of worship or workplaces. I’m pleased that Congressman King has joined this effort. I sincerely hope that more of my Republicans colleagues will put their service to our country and the safety of their constituents ahead of their need to raise campaign money from the gun lobby.’

In an attack perpetrated by a white nationalist spouting President Donald Trump’s own anti-immigrant rhetoric in El Paso, 22 people were murdered recently, and hours after that, a more ambiguously motivated gunman in Dayton murdered nine people in less than one minute. If he was not armed as potently as he was — the carnage could have been decreased significantly. Yet, Republicans have resisted efforts to scale back the proliferation of weapons in the United States ever since they let an assault weapons ban that President Bill Clinton signed expire under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Although the assault weapons ban currently active in the House has around 200 co-sponsors at present, Democratic leaders have focused on trying to get the Republican-majority Senate as led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) to vote on legislation establishing universal background checks for gun purchases that they passed in the House months ago. Despite pressure, McConnell has refused to rush, instead saying he’ll consider something that emerges from the Republican-led Senate committees after Congress returns from its ongoing fall recess.

In the meantime, King notes that his explicit support of the assault weapons ban could give some cover to other Republicans to sign on as well and for Democrats in swing districts to also come out in support of the measure. Besides King, Republican Congressmen Brian Mast of Florida and Mike Turner of Ohio have also expressed verbal support for an assault weapons ban, both doing so after mass shootings unfolded in their district areas. Mast was responding to the early 2018 mass shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

After an initial public stance in favor of implementing universal background checks for gun purchases, Trump himself backed down a bit, simply saying recently that whatever comes in from Congress, he’ll “look at it very strongly.”

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