BISMARCK — The four U.S. senators from North Dakota and Minnesota are divided along party lines on a bill that would ban assault weapons.
The proposal to ban assault weapons narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, July 29. All but five of the chamber's Democrats voted for the bill, and all but two Republicans voted against it.
The bill would make it a crime to sell, manufacture or possess semi-automatic assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Democrats have pushed their Republican colleagues to pass gun control legislation after a recent string of deadly mass shootings rocked communities in Texas, Illinois and New York.
The bill appears unlikely to pass the Senate given the near-unanimous Republican opposition. Ten GOP senators would need to join Democrats in the evenly split chamber to pass the bill over a filibuster. It's unclear if or when the Senate will vote on the legislation.
North Dakota's Republican senators dismissed the bill, arguing it would violate their constituents' Second Amendment rights.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said his vote on the legislation is "a firm no."
"I also reject the notion that any firearm is an assault weapon based on anything other than how it’s used," Cramer added. "A car that’s used to run over people is an assault car. There isn’t a special thing you put on to make it an assault car, it’s the driver that makes it an assault weapon."
A spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the senator opposes the bill and "believes the right approach to preventing violence is to enforce our existing laws, while doing more to secure our schools, address mental health issues and ensure law enforcement has the training and resources they need.”
It's a different story among Minnesota's Democratic senators.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said a bipartisan gun safety bill passed in June was a step in the right direction, but there's much more to do "if we are serious about addressing the epidemic of gun violence in this country." Smith is a co-sponsor of the similar Senate proposal to ban assault weapons and said she would vote for the House bill.
"Let’s be very clear – this relentless cycle of collective grief, frustration and fury is a choice," Smith said in a statement. "Assault weapons are designed for warzones and have no place in our communities."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she supports the assault weapon ban. The senator co-sponsored a similar bill that failed in 2013.
"Minnesota has a strong tradition of hunting and sportsmen and women that we’re very proud of," Klobuchar said in a statement. "I know many gun owners support gun safety."
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., voted against the bill on Friday, saying in a news release he was "proud to stand with gun owners and vote against this attack on the Second Amendment."
Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., also voted against the proposal and called it "an attempt to strip law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights."