Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday that Senate Democrats likely don't have the 60 votes needed to pass a federal assault-style weapons ban that's once again being pushed by President Joe Biden in the wake of more mass shootings.
"Probably not," Murphy, a leading gun control advocate in the Senate, said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" when asked if Democrats had the votes to approve the legislation that was passed by the House in July.
"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 said.
Biden last week said he would make a last-ditch effort to ban assault-style weapons while Democrats still control both chambers of Congress. Republicans will take control of the House in January.
"The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick, it's just sick," Biden said Thursday. "It has no social redeeming value, zero, none. Not a single, solitary rationale for it."
In addition to banning assault-style weapons, Murphy said, another focus in Congress should be on how to handle counties that refuse to enforce state and national gun laws.
In Virginia and Colorado, where mass shootings took place last week, state "red flag" laws are aimed at preventing gun violence but they're not always followed.
In the case of Colorado, where a gunman killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub with an assault-style rifle, the state's red flag law could have permitted a temporary seizure of the gunman's firearms and ammunition because of his past criminal record, though its unclear whether it would have prevented the recent attack. There are no public records indicating that local law enforcement or his relatives tried to trigger this law, however.
Murphy suggested that the red flag law in Colorado may not have been imposed against the shooter in Colorado Springs because the county that the shooting took place in considers itself to be a "Second Amendment sanctuary state."
"They have decided that they are going to essentially refuse the laws that are implemented on the books," he said of these so-called firearm sanctuaries. Murphy suggested that federal funds could be withheld to places that disobey such safeguards.
"Do we want to continue to supply funding to law enforcement in counties that refuse to implement state and federal gun laws?" he asked. "I'll talk to my colleagues about what our approach should be to this problem but 60% of counties in this country are refusing to implement the nation's gun laws. We've got to do something about that."
Nearly every county in Virginia, where a gunman recently killed six people at a Walmart, has similarly voted to declare itself a "Second Amendment sanctuary." The gunman in that attack did not have a criminal record, however, and was able to legally purchase a handgun on the morning of the shooting.
Gun control advocates have argued that a waiting period to purchase a firearm could prevent impulsive attacks like the one last week, however. Like most states, Virginia does not require a waiting period before purchasing a firearm.
"If there is a mandatory period for people to reconsider their actions, they may consider a different course. But being able to acquire a very lethal form of killing when they're in a period of crisis is not a good idea," Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at Giffords, which advocates for stricter gun laws, told The New York Times.
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