Senate Dems unveil new gun control push

Greg Nash

Roughly two-dozen Senate Democrats unveiled a sweeping new gun control campaign Thursday in the wake of last week's mass shooting at a community college in Oregon.

The Democratic push focuses on three areas: bolstering current background check requirements, closing "loopholes" on background checks when guns are bought at gun shows or online, and closing the "pipeline of illegal guns" by making gun trafficking a federal crime.

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Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenDems push for US, EU cooperation on China's market status Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Watchdog faults Energy Department over whistleblower retaliation MORE (D-Ore.) said that the three areas are "reasonable," adding that "they're common sense. They ought to have bipartisan support."

More than half of the Senate Democratic Conference was at Thursday's event, bringing together red-state Democrats such as Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinChristian voters left wanting in Trump vs Clinton New Guccifer 2.0 dump highlights ‘wobbly Dems’ on Iran deal Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillWatchdog faults Energy Department over whistleblower retaliation Wagner passes on NRCC bid, backs Stivers Senate Dem: Trump will pick 'handsome' Pence MORE (Mo.) with vocal advocates for additional gun control measures, such as Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyWeek ahead in health: All eyes turn to Dem convention Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (Conn.).

Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineClinton, Kaine detail bus tour through Ohio, Pa. The Trail 2016: The newrevolution begins Sanders asks supporters not to boo, protest during convention MORE (D-Va.), who was governor of Virginia during the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, said the idea behind the new push is to "start a national movement around a couple of principles. ... This should be easy."

But in a GOP-controlled Congress, Republican senators were notably absent from Thursday's press conference.

A Senate GOP aide said that Republican senators weren't invited to participate in drafting the gun control principles or attend Thursday's event.

Acknowledging the likely Republican opposition, Murphy said that "every great reform movement has faced one of these moments where the political odds seem stacked against you."

"If we aren't even having a debate on the floor of the Senate ... people come to the conclusion that we must be OK with it," he added.

It’s unclear when Democrats will write legislation based on the principles they unveiled, but if they want to get a proposal passed through the Senate, they’ll need more than a dozen Republicans to help them overcome a filibuster that any gun control bill would likely face.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security The Trail 2016: Unity at last MORE (D-N.Y.) said that "at the right time we will make sure there is a vote on the floor, using all the procedural means we can. We have the ability to get a vote on this, and we will."

Asked whether Democrats would try to move the legislation during the current Congress, which runs through the end of 2016, Schumer replied, “We'll see when the ground swell hits.”

A staffer for Schumer said the New York Democrat misheard the question, and that Democrats will try to move the legislation later this year or early next year.

Republicans, however, have focused on mental health legislation in the wake of a string of high-profile mass shootings this year. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Hopes dim for mental health deal Overnight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year MORE (R-Texas) told reporters earlier this week that he has begun reaching out Democrats on a proposal.

“I think people are intrigued. I've been talking to a number of them on an individual basis, and I hope to have something to announce here before long,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said on Thursday that while Democrats said "a lot of good things," he raised concerns about the unclear timeline of legislation.

"It can't stop by simply launching a campaign. ...They are Congress and they need to do their job," he told reporters. "They could introduce legislation today if they wanted to."

Peter Ambler, director at Americans for Responsible Solutions, added that senators should be willing to detail where they stand on the proposals outlined by Democrats.

"We want to hear every United States senator’s plan for exactly what they would, or would not, do to reduce gun violence in our country," he said.

The lobbying-wing of the National Rifle Association slammed Democrats, suggesting they are helping the administration "politicize" mass shootings. 

"President Obama proudly admits that he wants to politicize these horrific events to push his gun control agenda - and his allies in Congress are happy to do his bidding. If Obama and gun control advocates were serious, they would address the underlying issue of America’s broken mental health system," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said.

Separately, Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Congress sends first major opioid bill to Obama's desk Opioid package clears key Senate hurdle MORE (D-Conn.) is expected to introduce legislation that would close a loophole that allows a retailer to sell a gun without a background check after 72 hours.

The Connecticut Democrat was scheduled to unveil his proposal on Wednesday but it was postponed. He said on Thursday that he is still planning to introduce legislation.

--This report was updated at 4:30 p.m.

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