New efforts emerge on Capitol Hill to tackle gun control
(ABC NEWS) -- In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, this time in Southerland Springs, Texas, members of Congress are once again proposing legislation aimed at overhauling and enforcing stricter gun laws.
Twenty-six people were left dead on Sunday, according to police, who have included an unborn child in the death count, when a gunman open fired on a church congregation during service.
Democrats announced today the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, which would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines.
The last time senators attempted legislation of this magnitude was in 2012, following the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 children and six adult staff members.
The bill was defeated in the Senate on April 17, 2013, by a vote of 40 to 60.
“To those who say now isn’t the time, they’re right -- we should have extended the original ban 13 years ago, before hundreds more Americans were murdered with these weapons of war. To my colleagues in Congress, I say do your job,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a press release Wednesday.
The last assault weapons ban expired on Sept. 13, 2004.
In a surprising move, top Republican and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn announced on Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to enhance and expedite the uploading of criminal conviction records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Republican senator is from Texas.
Officials said the gunman, Devin Kelley, was able to purchase guns because the Air Force failed to report his domestic violence-related convictions to an FBI database.
“This critically important information from the suspect's criminal history was not uploaded into the relevant background check databases, even though a federal law clearly requires that it be done,” Cornyn said Tuesday.
“Because there was no record of it, he was able to lie his way into getting these firearms,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also announced Tuesday that they were working on their own legislation that would ensure any individual convicted of domestic violence -- whether in criminal or military court -- cannot legally purchase a firearm.
As it stands now, the military does not report misdemeanors of domestic violence to the background check database, “and it’s not clear that they can under current law” an aide to Flake told ABC News in a statement.
During a joint press conference Tuesday, the senators stood side by side as they announced their legislation.
“It appears this loophole allowed a man who was clearly unfit to purchase a firearm to do so at the cost of 26 innocent lives,” Flake said. “This bill will ensure that a situation like this will not happen again and that anyone, anywhere convicted of domestic violence is kept from legally purchasing a gun.”
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, R-Ariz., also weighed in Tuesday, expressing his frustration over cuts to defense spending which he said has resulted in a “less trained and well equipped” military. He said he plans to hold an oversight hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee soon to find out how and why the Air Force could make such an egregious reporting error.
The House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, also on Tuesday said in a statement that he has directed his committee staff to begin its own comprehensive oversight of the DOD, as he is concerned the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systemic issue. He called the issue "appalling."
The Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will hold a hearing Nov. 14 to examine the federal and local government reporting of criminal convictions to the national database. The panel will also look at federal regulations for bump stocks, which can be attached to semi-automatic weapons to increase firing speed. Republicans and Democrats both called for a ban on the sale of bump stocks last month after the Las Vegas massacre, which left more than 50 dead, but those efforts have gone nowhere on Capitol Hill.