DCCC targets swing district Republicans on pistol brace vote

Gun Rights

Senate Democrats on Thursday rejected a Republican-led resolution that would have overturned a Biden administration ban on pistol brace stabilizers. The vote effectively stopped a bill that shut down the House floor last week after House Freedom Caucus members brought proceedings to a standstill.

What You Need To Know

  • Democrats plan to use gun safety legislation as a key messaging tool for the 2024 election
  • Senate Democrats on Thursday rejected a House-passed GOP-backed resolution that would have overturned a Biden administration ban on pistol brace stabilizers
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  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s fundraising and campaign arm in the House, is looking to target Republicans in key swing districts for their support of the bill
  • In California, for instance, Republican Reps. Young Kim and John Duarte both voted in favor of the pistol brace bill, despite representing districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Joe Biden in 2020

The Senate voted along party lines to reject the measure, which would have reclassified pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles. The braces, which allow a gun to be fired with one hand, have been used in a number of mass shootings, including one in March at a school in Nashville, Tenn. 

“This is a good rule,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., an outspoken voice in Washington on gun violence prevention, said ahead of Thursday’s vote. Murphy said the rule “doesn’t make any new law. It merely helps to enforce a law that’s been on the books for almost a century.” 

Republicans argued the bill would have helped gun owners who are disabled. 

“Attaching a pistol brace to a pistol, which doesn’t change the pistol in any fundamental way except stabilizing, does not stop a pistol from being a pistol,” said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy. “All a pistol brace does is allow an American, especially a handicapped American, to safely grip a pistol and control it in a safe manner.”

In January, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled to amend its regulations for pistol braces. The decision required owners of firearms with a stabilizing brace to register them by May 31, 2023. 

“Today, 50 Senators had the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and oppose a measure that sought to undermine public safety. The resolution brought forward today to repeal ATF’s regulation on stabilizing braces was a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the authority of the only federal agency empowered to regulate the gun industry,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Federal Affairs Director Adzi Vokhiwa said in a statement. “ATF’s rule on stabilizing braces simply ensures that all forms of short-barreled rifles are regulated under the National Firearms Act.”

Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, led a public campaign earlier this year encouraging ATF to adopt the change in policy.

“What these aftermarket devices do is they take an assault pistol, short barrel pistol, capable of taking large capacity magazines, fire in a semi automatic fashion. Add this rifle stock to it, now you have a short barreled rifle, something that is regulated by the National Firearms Act,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “They’re regulated by the National Firearms Act because they are dangerous, they’re menacing [and] people use them to do terrible things.”

Democrats plan to use gun safety legislation as a key messaging tool for the 2024 election. Just last week, House Democrats used a rare procedural move known as a discharge petition in an attempt to go around GOP leadership and force a vote on banning military-style semi-automatic firearms and enhanced background checks for those purchasing a gun. 

Discharge petitions allow a bill to be brought out of committee for a floor vote without the need of the leadership party’s approval. Democrats would need some Republican support to get a majority signed on to the petition, and it’s unclear they will have the votes.

Thompson calls it “frustrating” and “sad” that Republicans vote for bills such as the pistol brace resolution but won’t take action on laws such as background checks favored by “responsible gun owners in communities across the country.”

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., criticized GOP lawmakers following the pistol brace vote, saying Republicans “voted to make it easier to kill Americans and unleash carnage on children.” 

Democrats are looking to highlight the Republicans in key swing districts across the country who voted for the pistol brace bill, including in Southern California, as part of their messaging for 2024.

“Rather than take commonsense action to make communities safer, the so-called moderate California Republicans sided with the NRA and extreme MAGA Republicans,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Justin Chermol. “Their inaction is dangerous, and they are too reckless to be trusted.”

California Republican Reps. Young Kim and John Duarte both voted in favor of the pistol brace bill, despite representing districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Joe Biden in 2020. 

“I am a staunch supporter of both the Second Amendment and sensible measures that keep our communities safe,” John Duarte told Spectrum News. “Rather than reducing the hurdles to acquire firearms, the recent pistol brace legislation helps disabled individuals safely and responsibly operate firearms.”

He noted that the bill had been endorsed by various groups including Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“Rep. Kim wants to work to help improve gun safety while protecting 2nd amendment rights. That’s why she’s supported strengthening background checks and introduced the Prevent Family Fire Act, a bipartisan bill to help incentivize safe storage of guns in homes,” a spokesperson for her office said.

“Stabilizing braces were made for veterans who lost limbs and cannot shoulder a rifle,” the spokesperson added. “This bill protects law-abiding gun owners with these braces from instantly becoming felons, which would happen under the ATF rule. Rep. Kim is one of the most bipartisan and effective members of Congress and remains focused on common sense solutions for her district.”

A Republican operative who is familiar with Southern California politics told Spectrum News that this is “the same old tired playbook” Democrats have been using over the last several cycles.

“Democrats make it seem like supporting the Second Amendment is a bad thing. They are totally off base with what people in Southern California care about,” the GOP operative said, pointing to high taxes, among other issues.

A June 2023 Public Policy Institute of California survey supports that claim, with just 2% of respondents in California citing guns as their main concern facing the state compared with 25% who cited the economy. 

Thompson says voters in these swing districts should be paying attention and aware of how their representatives are addressing gun violence. “They need to send a message to their members of Congress that we’ve had enough gun violence, they’re not going to tolerate this anymore,” he said. “[Republicans] should be working to keep our schools, our places of worship, our movie theaters, our music venues, our supermarkets as safe as they possibly can. And they’re not doing that now.”

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