The House passed legislation to revive a ban on semi-automatic weapons, the first such vote in years and a direct response to firearms often used in the crushing of mass shootings ravaging communities across the country. national scale.
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 had “saved lives.”
The House legislation is shunned by Republicans, who have dismissed it as election-year strategy by Democrats. Almost all Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 217-213. He will likely stagnate in the Senate 50-50.
The bill arrives at a time of heightened concerns about gun violence and shootings – the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York; massacre of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas; and the Fourth of July 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.
Joe Biden, who helped secure the first ban on semi-automatic weapons as a senator in 1994, encouraged passage, promising to sign the bill if he made it to his desk. In a statement before the vote, his administration said, “We know that a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will save lives.”
The Biden administration said that for 10 years while the ban was in place, mass shootings declined. “When the ban expired in 2004, the mass shootings tripled,” the statement said.
Republicans came out strongly against property limits on high-powered guns in a sometimes emotional debate ahead of the vote.
“It’s a gun grab, plain and simple,” said Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania.
Andrew Clyde of Georgia said, “An America armed is a safe and free America.
Democrats argued that the gun ban made sense, portraying Republicans as extreme and out of step with Americans.
Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said the gun ban was not meant to take away Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but to ensure children also had the right ‘not to be shot at in school’ .
National gun violence prevention organizations describe the House actions as a promising step toward enacting future restrictions at the federal level.
“Just a few years ago this would have been unthinkable,” said March for Our Lives board member Trevon Bosley. The organization was born after a young gunman shot and killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“This bill will not yet save lives, but it sends a powerful message to the millions of young people growing up fighting for our lives: change is possible.
The bill would make it illegal to import, sell or manufacture a long list of semi-automatic weapons. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he exempts those who are already in possession.
Since the previous ban expired nearly two decades ago, Democrats had 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 also make clear where the candidates stand on gun legislation ahead of the midterm elections.
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.
Abene Clayton contributed reporting