New efforts tackle gun control on Capitol Hill

"To my colleagues in Congress, I say, do your job," Sen. Dianne Feinstein said.

ByABC News
November 8, 2017, 10:21 PM

— -- In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, this time in Sutherland Springs, Texas, some 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 count, when a gunman opened fire on a church congregation during a service.

Democrats announced today the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, which would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and import of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines.

The last time senators attempted legislation of this magnitude was in 2012, after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 20 children and six adult staff members.

That 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, Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn of Texas 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.

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., announced Tuesday that they were working on their own legislation that would bar any individual convicted of domestic violence — whether in criminal or military court — from purchasing a firearm.

As it stands, the military does not report domestic violence misdemeanors 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 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.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., also weighed in Tuesday, expressing his frustration over cuts to defense spending, which he said have resulted in a “less trained and well equipped” military. He said he plans to hold an oversight hearing in the Armed Services Committee soon to find out how the Air Force could make such an egregious reporting error.

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 a comprehensive oversight review of the Defense Department, as he is concerned that the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systemic issue. He called the reporting failure “appalling.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will hold a hearing Nov. 14 to examine 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 semiautomatic weapons to increase firing speed. Both Republicans and Democrats called for a ban on the sale of bump stocks last month after the Las Vegas massacre, which left more than 50 people dead, but those efforts have gone nowhere on Capitol Hill.

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