Most Republicans have not embraced the call by freshman Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, for a ban on “assault weapons” in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, but Mast said Tuesday that some of his GOP colleagues have privately quizzed him on how the proposal is going over with his constituents.
Mast said he also hopes to raise the issue with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, when the president hosts a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House to discuss gun legislation and other measures in response to the 17 deaths in Parkland.
“I’m hopeful. I think having a conversation with the president can help move that,” Mast said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.
As for his fellow House Republicans, Mast said, “There have been a pretty good swath of people that have been feeling me out, asking ‘What’s the reaction been back home?’ I tell them it’s a mixed bag of people back home.”
Mast, a decorated Army combat veteran who campaigned in 2016 as a Second Amendment supporter with the backing of the National Rifle Association, surprised many in the GOP when he announced in a New York Times op-ed on Friday that he wants Congress to define “what constitutes an assault or tactical firearm” and ban future sales of such weapons.
While Congress grapples with that issue, Mast said he wants Trump to “implement an immediate pause” on the sale of AR-15-style weapons, that were used in the mass shootings in Parkland this month, Las Vegas last year and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
A few Republicans appear open to the idea.
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., called Mast’s op-ed “right on point” in a Sunday MSNBC interview , but cautioned that coming up with a definition of an assault rifle is difficult. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, told The Miami Herald that “everything should be on the table” when he was asked about an assault weapons ban. A Philadelphia-area paper, The Intelligencer, last week quoted Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., as saying: “if prohibiting the sale of these military-style assault weapons will solve the problem, we need to get on board with it.”
In crafting an assault weapons ban, Mast said Congress should not include all semiautomatic weapons.
While a machine gun fires a continuous stream of bullets while the trigger is pulled, a semiautomatic firearm requires the shooter to pull the trigger separately for each round fired.
Mast said a semiautomatic requires “putting a thought into every round…I think that’s a fair standard for anybody that wants to be a law-abiding citizen.”
Mast said he’s heard from supporters of gun rights who believe that no firearm should be restricted because of the Second Amendment guarantee that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Mast disagreed. In his New York Times piece, he called the Second Amendment “unimpeachable” but noted that “the purchase of fully automatic firearms is largely banned already, and I cannot purchase an AT-4 rocket, grenades, a Bradley fighting vehicle or an Abrams tank.”