A leading conservative think-tank has threatened to score a gun-reform proposal that could hit the Senate floor this week.
The Heritage Foundation said the measure to ban high-capacity ammunition clips — proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) as an amendment to the Senate's cybersecurity bill — "may infringe" on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The group's lobbying arm is urging lawmakers to kill the proposal.
"Should Congress decide to proceed," the group added, "then the serious constitutional questions at stake demand that Congress must at a minimum hold further constitutional hearings and investigations rather than rushing to regulate."
Lautenberg has been a long-time proponent of tougher gun laws, including measures to ban assault rifles and high-capacity clips. His latest push was fueled by this month's mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman stormed a packed movie theater and opened fire indiscriminately, killing 12 and injuring 58.
The suspect in that case, James Holmes, 24, allegedly used a military-style semi-automatic rifle and a 100-round ammunition magazine, leading gun reformers on and off Capitol Hill to amplify their concerns that such tools are inappropriate for civilian use.
"If you get a 100-round clip you're not shooting deer, you're hunting people," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told The Hill last week.
Conservative lawmakers and the gun lobby disagree, arguing that Americans have the right to keep such tools both for protection and recreation. Furthermore, they say that using the emotionally charged Aurora massacre to craft policy is inappropriate.
"Passing a potentially unconstitutional amendment in response to a tragic incident undermines the rights of every American," Heritage Action wrote Tuesday.
The group has little to fear from this Congress, as the leaders of both chambers — Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidRepublican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Top GOP senator: 'Tragic mistake' if Democrats try to block Gorsuch MORE (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (R-Ohio) — have both dismissed the notion of passing tougher gun laws in the wake of the Aurora tragedy.
Still, that hasn't dissuaded congressional gun reformers from urging tougher laws — a push which, they hope, will at least force a national debate about the effectiveness of current safeguards.
No constitutional amendment, the reformers argue, is without its limitations.
"Certainly the right believes in anti-pornography laws. That's a limitation on the First Amendment," Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerGOP strategist: Trump's dealmaking mojo 'went over like a fart in a hurricane' McConnell: ObamaCare 'status quo' will stay in place moving forward NRA launches M Supreme Court ad MORE (N.Y.) said last week. "No amendment is absolute or our society would be tied in a complete knot."
Also endorsing Lautenberg's amendment are Democratic Sens. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCorruption trial could roil NJ Senate race Steve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (N.J.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Regulation: Trump repeals 'blacklisting' rule Dems delay Senate panel vote on Supreme Court nominee Dems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges MORE (Calif.), Jack ReedJack ReedThe Hill's 12:30 Report Dem Sen. Reed to oppose Gorsuch Dems introduce MAR-A-LAGO Act to publish visitor logs MORE (R.I.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill’s Whip List: 31 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Chelsea Clinton to be honored by Variety, Lifetime MORE (N.Y.) and Schumer.
The Senate is continuing its debate on the cybersecurity bill Tuesday, but no votes on the measure are expected before Thursday.