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U.S. Senate Democrats unveil legislation to ban high-capacity gun magazines

Demonstrators hold up signs representing victims of gun violence during a June 2019 press conference along the east front of the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, along with 27 of his U.S. Senate colleagues, introduced legislation Tuesday to ban high-capacity magazines, which can be used on the type of semi-automatic firearm that is typically used in most mass shootings.

“High-capacity magazines were designed for one purpose and one purpose only — high-capacity killing — and have been used in some of the deadliest mass shootings in America,” Menendez said in a statement.

The push for a ban on the importation, sale, manufacturing, transfer or possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition builds on prior bipartisan gun control legislation that passed Congress and was signed into law last year.

While that gun control legislation was historic, it did not ban assault rifles or high-capacity magazines, which have been used in mass shootings across the country from Uvalde, Texas, where 19 elementary school children and two teachers were killed, to Atlanta, where six women of Asian descent were shot and killed across several spas.

However, House GOP lawmakers are opposed to most gun control legislation supported by Democrats and with a Republican-controlled House, it’s unlikely any gun control legislation would be brought to the floor. Democrats have a slim 51-vote majority in the Senate, and would need to pass any legislation with a 60-vote threshold.

So far this year, there have been 60 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun violence across the U.S.

A recent mass shooting in Monterey Park, California renewed calls from the White House and Democrats to push for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California introduced a ban on assault weapons in late January that has garnered 41 cosponsors, but none are Republicans.

In the Monterey Park mass shooting on Jan. 21, the eve of Lunar New Year, a gunman used two semi-automatic pistols and an extended high-capacity magazine to kill 11 people and injure nine others. Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the shooter and is credited with preventing further deaths, was a White House guest for Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

“This is a common sense bill that will provide greater peace of mind to communities and families across the country that have felt the despair of losing a loved one, friend, or neighbor in a mass shooting with guns equipped with high-capacity magazines,” Menendez said.

The bill, known as the Keep Americans Safe Act, if passed into law would also authorize a buyback program for high-capacity magazines, using grants, and require any devices manufactured after the law passes to have serial numbers engraved on them and the date of manufacture in order to help law enforcement identify restricted magazines.

The bill would also grandfather in high-capacity magazines that were purchased before the law goes into effect. There would also be “limited exceptions for devices possessed before enactment, for certain current and former law enforcement personnel, for certain Atomic Energy personnel and other purposes, for tubular devices that can only accept .22 rimfire ammunition, and for certain authorized testing or experimentation,” according to a fact sheet from Menendez’s office.

Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) are among the 25 Democrats and two independents who are cosponsors of the legislation.


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U.S. Senate Democrats unveil legislation to ban high-capacity gun magazines