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 WydenSenate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks 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 ManchinOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Poll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats MORE (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies On The Trail: Trump-inspired challengers target GOP governors MORE (Mo.) with vocal advocates for additional gun control measures, such as Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks MORE (Conn.).

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size 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 SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress 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 CornynSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Senators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses 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.