WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Friday passed legislation to revive bans on certain semi-automatic weapons, the first such vote in years and a direct response to firearms often used in crushing shootings. of mass tearing apart communities nationwide.
Once banned in the United States, high-powered firearms are now widely considered the weapon of choice for young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. But Congress allowed restrictions first put in place in 1994 on the manufacture and sale of guns to expire a decade later, unable to muster the political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and restore the weapons ban.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the vote toward passage in the Democratic-led House, saying the earlier ban “saved lives.”
President Joe Biden welcomed the House vote, saying, “The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action.” He urged the Senate to “act quickly to get this bill on my desk.”
However, he is likely to stall in the Senate 50-50. The House legislation is being shunned by Republicans, who have dismissed it as election-year strategy by Democrats. Almost all Republicans voted against the House bill, which passed 217-213.
The bill comes at a time of heightened concerns about gun violence and shootings – the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, NY; massacre of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas; and the July 4 shooting of revelers in Highland Park, Illinois.
Voters appear to be taking these election-year votes seriously as Congress divides along party lines and lawmakers are pressured to make their views known. A recent vote to protect same-sex marriages from possible legal challenges in the Supreme Court has won surprising bipartisan support.
Biden was instrumental in securing the first ban on semi-automatic weapons as a senator in 1994. The Biden administration said that for 10 years while the ban was in place, mass shootings decreased. “When the ban expired in 2004, the mass shootings tripled,” the statement said.
Republicans came out strongly against ownership limits on high-powered guns in a sometimes emotional debate ahead of the vote.
“It’s a gun seizure, plain and simple,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa.
Says Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., “An America armed is a safe and free America.”
Democrats have argued that the gun ban makes sense, portraying Republicans as extreme and out of step with Americans.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the gun ban was not meant to take away Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but to ensure that children also have the right “not to be shot at.” the school”.
Pelosi displayed a poster advertising a gun company for children’s guns, smaller versions that resemble popular AR-15 rifles and are marketed with cartoon-like characters. “Disgusting,” she said.
In an exchange, two Ohio lawmakers clashed. “Your freedom ends where mine begins, and my constituents’ freedom begins,” Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur told Republican Representative Jim Jordan. “Schools, malls, grocery stores, Independence Day parades should not be scenes of mass carnage and bloodshed.”
Jordan responded by inviting him to his congressional district to debate him on the Second Amendment, saying he thought most of his constituents “probably agree with me and agree with the Constitution of the United States.” “.
The bill would make it illegal to import, sell or manufacture a long list of semi-automatic weapons. Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., said it includes an exemption that allows possession of existing semi-automatic weapons.
Representatives Chris Jacobs of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania were the only Republicans to vote for the measure. Democratic lawmakers who voted against were Representatives Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas.
For nearly two decades since the previous ban expired, Democrats have been reluctant to revisit the issue and confront the gun lobby. But voters’ views appear to be changing, and Democrats have dared to act ahead of the fall election. The result will provide voters with information about where the candidates stand on the issue.
Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement after the vote that “just a month after” the Supreme Court expanded gun rights “gun control advocates in Congress are carrying out an attack on the liberties and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.
He said the bill potentially bans millions of firearms “in blatant opposition to Supreme Court rulings” that established gun ownership as an individual right and expanded it.
Among the banned semi-automatic weapons are said to be more than 200 types of semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s and pistols. The restrictions would not apply to many other models.
Democrats had tried to tie the gun ban to a broader set of public safety measures that would have increased federal funding for law enforcement. It’s something that centrist Democrats in tough re-election campaigns wanted to protect against political attacks from their Republican opponents, they are soft on crime.
Pelosi said the House will revisit the public safety bills in August when lawmakers are expected to briefly return to Washington to address other remaining legislation, including Biden’s priority healthcare inflation-fighting agenda. health and climate change strategies that is making its way through the Senate.
Congress passed a modest gun violence prevention agenda last month following the tragic shooting of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde. The bipartisan bill was the first of its kind after years of failed efforts to confront the gun lobby, including after a similar mass tragedy in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
This law provides for expanded background checks on young adults who purchase firearms, allowing authorities to access certain juvenile records. It also closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by denying gun purchases to those convicted of domestic violence outside of marriage.
The new law also frees up federal funds for states, including for “red flag” laws that allow authorities to take away guns from those who harm themselves or others.
But even that modest effort to end gun violence came at a time of grave uncertainty in the United States over gun restrictions, as the more conservative Supreme Court takes aim at gun rights. fire and other problems.
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling struck down a New York law that restricted people’s ability to carry concealed weapons.
This story was first published on July 29, 2022. It was updated on August 1, 2022 to correct the name of the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action to Jason Ouimet, not Jason Quimet.