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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico Photos of the Week: Nov. 13-17 Senate panel approves GOP tax plan 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 ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Overnight Finance: House passes sweeping tax bill in huge victory for GOP | Senate confirms banking regulator | Mulvaney eyed for interim head of consumer agency Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillOn Capitol Hill, few name names on sexual harassment Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Gillibrand to donate money from Franken's PAC MORE (Mo.) with vocal advocates for additional gun control measures, such as Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress must end American support for Saudi war in Yemen Jones raised 0K a day after first Moore accusers came forward: report Senate Democrats introduce bill to block Trump's refugee ban MORE (Conn.).

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineBooker tries to find the right lane  Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' 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 senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request 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 Blumenthal (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.