WASHINGTON — Rep. Ed Perlmutter said despite his lobbying of individual House Republican members to support legislation to ban semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, none have agreed to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill.
“I’ve had conversations with (GOP) members, and while they have not signed on, they have not turned me down,” the Golden Democrat said in an interview at the Capitol Thursday.
Perlmutter’s admission that not a single member of the 233 Republicans in the House of Representatives has stepped forward to endorse the legislation highlights the steep political divide on the issue.
Democrats from blue-states that President Obama carried last November support banning semi-automatic rifles and magazine clips with more than 10 bullets, but most Republicans and Democrats from red or purple states either oppose the idea or remain on the sidelines.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) indicated his opposition to the proposals in a statement. “While every American wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals through common-sense firearms restrictions, I am concerned this proposal would go far beyond that … I remain skeptical that gun bans can actually reduce or prevent violence,” he said.
Perlmutter is the original co-sponsor in the House of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which was introduced in both legislative chambers Thursday. His district had included the section of Aurora in which a gunman burst through the back door of a movie theater last July and as the patrons watched a special midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises shot more than 70 people.
At the time, Perlmutter was criticized for politicizing the massacre. While he declined to re-introduce an assault weapons ban for months even after the shooting, he has been unbowed by the criticism.
Perlmutter was one of eight congressional Democrats who appeared and spoke at a 90-minute press conference at the Capitol Thursday to build public support for the legislation. The others were Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Charles Schumer of New York, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut as well as Representatives Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut.
The blue-state Democrats were joined by dozens of police officers, including a handful of chiefs of police, the Episcopal rector of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and several family members of gun violence.
The measure would ban the sale, manufacture, transfer, and importation of more than 150 semi-automatic weapons as well as large-capacity magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
“Our everyday freedoms as Americans are being taken away by gun violence,” he said. After quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he indicated his constituents agree. “I know the people of the Denver area want to see change here.”
Durbin, the Senate Majority Leader, said the legislation could use the support of his former neighbors in the southern part of the state. “There is another group that we need in this coalition: responsible hunters and sportsmen. I grew up in downstate Illinois, and while there are those who say this bill won’t save everybody, if it can save a life from (gun violence), it’s certainly worth it,” he said.
Feinstein, the Senate sponsor of the bill and a 1994 version, appealed directly to the media and the American people. “We have one ally in this fight you,” she said.
Yet the odds of passing both an assault weapon ban and a limit on clips are daunting. Repeatedly during and after the press conference, congressional Democrats used the words “uphill battle” and a “tough” fight to describe their chances of success.
A few red-state Republicans and Democrats have indicated general support for looking at measures like an assault weapon ban and limiting clips. But none have taken the additional step of actually signing on as a co-sponsor of the bill.