Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told Boston Public Radio on Wednesday that Senate leaders should bring an assault weapons ban to the Senate floor.
“Let’s just put an assault weapons ban on the floor now and vote,” she said. “You want to vote yes? You have a chance to do that. You want to vote no? You have a chance to do that and go home and tell the people that you represent why it’s OK with you that people can carry assault weapons all across this nation."
Assault weapons were banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004, when the law expired under a sunset provision. Now Washington, D.C., is debating a new ban in the wake of two mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, over the past week.
A new assault weapons ban and two separate measures that would expand gun background checks are unlikely to get enough Republican support to override a filibuster. On Tuesday, Warren called for Democrats to eliminate the parliamentary procedure, tweeting that “things won't get better until Democrats get rid of the filibuster and finally pass gun safety legislation.”
On Wednesday, Warren said that she's open to forcing a vote on gun legislation before moving to the question of the filibuster.
"I get that we have just the thinnest of majorities," she said. "I get that the filibuster is still out there. But we have the capacity to force a vote, and I think it’s time we do that. And then, if the Republicans want to filibuster this, then we can address the question of the filibuster.”
Because the Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats would need total unity on a filibuster decision, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Currently, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirstyn Sinema of Arizona, along with others, have expressed opposition to killing the filibuster, though a handful have offered support for more limited filibuster reform.
“The filibusters issued by the Republicans to say in every case 'you cannot govern, you can’t move anything forward' ... that just doesn’t work,” Warren said. “We’re not the party who came to Washington just to keep government from working. We’re actually the party who thinks we can put government on the side of the people, but we need to be able to make it work to do that.”
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week said that any significant filibuster reform would “destroy the essence of the Senate.” McConnell dismissed the historical precedent of the filibuster’s use in blocking civil rights legislation.
"I think the minority leader's been fact-checked, and it was determined that his pants were on fire," Warren said of McConnell's remarks about the filibuster and civil rights.
"The filibuster has been used in the past ... year after year after year, for more than 100 years, to block anti-lynching legislation. It was used over and over and over again to block civil rights legislation. Today, the threat is that it will be used to block voting rights legislation and it will be used to block gun safety legislation, that it will be used to keep us from doing the things that the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to do."
In an interview that took place earlier in Wednesday's show, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, also backed federal gun reform, including an assault weapons ban.
“What we’ve done here in Massachusetts has worked and worked well, and if I could be a voice to share that with folks at the national level I’d be happy to do that,” he said. “I think what Massachusetts has done is terrific, and I’d be perfectly happy to argue that a lot of that stuff would look real good in federal policy.”
GBH's Zoe Mathews contributed to this report.