Rep. Pete King of New York on Monday became the first House Republican to back an assault weapons ban, joining its 200 Democratic co-sponsors.
The bill, titled The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, was introduced in February by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). It applies to semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, both of which would be illegal to import, transfer, manufacture, sell or possess.
“They are weapons of mass slaughter,” King told the New York Daily News. “I don’t see any need for them in everyday society.”
King’s endorsement comes after two mass shootings devastated the nation earlier this month ― one at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart where an alleged white supremacist killed 22 people, and another in downtown Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people. Combined, the attacks also injured more than 50 people.
In the immediate aftermath of the violence, King released a statement calling for measured action on gun control in a message that differed from the GOP’s usual refrain of offering merely “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of mass shootings.
“The tragic shootings in El Paso and Dayton demonstrate again the need to address gun violence,” he said in the Aug. 5 statement. “Sensible gun regulation is essential as is psychological study of who resorts to gun violence and why and what early indicators there might be.”
Cicilline tweeted on Monday that he is “grateful” King, whose district encompasses part of Long Island, has specifically endorsed the assault weapons ban, and he urged other Republican to follow suit.
“Time for my other Republican colleagues to stop worrying about their ratings from the gun lobby and start protecting the lives of their constituents,” Cicilline said.
Few signs have emerged, however, of a shift in GOP opposition to the proposed ban. President Donald Trump has vaguely endorsed the toughening of some gun control measures following the most recent slaughters, but he also declared that he saw “no political appetite, probably” for an assault weapons ban.
Without a lobbying effort by Trump, a House-passed ban would likely stall in the GOP-controlled Senate.