Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaker of the House, speaks during a press conference on Friday. A bill to reinstate the prohibition on semi-automatic weapons has been approved by the House. The Senate is not expected to approve the bill.
Washington J. Scott Applewhite/AP In the first vote of its sort in years and in response to the widespread use of semi-automatic weapons in recent mass shootings, the House on Friday approved legislation to reinstate a ban on specific semi-automatic weapons.
High-powered guns, which were once outlawed in the United States, are now largely held accountable for many of the most horrific mass shootings by young men. But Congress failed to garner enough political support to override the influential gun lobby and restore the weapons ban, allowing the restrictions on the manufacture and sale of firearms that were first implemented in 1994 to expire ten years later.
The earlier restriction “saved lives,” according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who helped the bill move forward in the Democratic-controlled House.
The vote in the House was applauded by President Joe Biden, who noted that “the majority of Americans agree with this common sense measure.” “Move rapidly to bring this bill on my desk,” he pleaded with the Senate.
It will probably stall in the 50-50 Senate, though. Republicans avoid the House proposal, dismissing it as a Democrat election-year ploy. The House bill was defeated 217–113 with nearly all Republicans voting against it.
The law is introduced at a time when worries about gun violence and shootings are growing, such as after the July 4th murders in Highland Park, Illinois, the slaughter of students in Uvalde, Texas, and the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York.
As Congress splits along party lines and members are compelled to put their opinions on the record, voters appear to be taking such election-year decisions seriously. Bipartisan support for a recent vote to safeguard same-sex unions against prospective Supreme Court legal challenges was surprisingly strong.
As a senator in 1994, Biden played a crucial role in securing the first semi-automatic weapons prohibition. Mass shootings decreased for ten years while the prohibition was in place, according to the Biden administration. Mass shootings surged after the ban’s expiration in 2004, according to the statement.
During an occasionally passionate discussion prior to the vote, Republicans vehemently opposed placing restrictions on who may purchase these powerful weapons.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa, described the situation as “plain and simple a gun grab.”
“An armed America is a safe and free America,” declared Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.
Democrats presented Republicans as extremist and out of touch with Americans while arguing that the ban on the guns makes sense.
The Second Amendment rights of Americans should not be taken away, according to Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who also claimed that children should have the right “to not get shot in school.”
Pelosi exhibited a poster of a gun company’s marketing for children’s weapons, smaller versions that are promoted with cartoon-like characters and resemble the common AR-15 rifles. Disgusting, she pronounced.
Two Ohio lawmakers engaged in a heated discussion at one point. Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur reminded Republican Representative Jim Jordan, “Your freedom stops where mine and that of my constituents begin.” “Schools, shopping centers, grocers, and Fourth of July parades shouldn’t be places of widespread death and mayhem.”
In his response, Jordan said he thought the majority of his constituents “probably agree with me and agree with the United States Constitution” and invited her to his congressional district to debate him on the Second Amendment.
A large number of semi-automatic weapons would be prohibited from import, sale, or manufacturing under the proposed legislation. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, chairman of the judiciary committee, noted that it has an exemption that permits the possession of currently legal semi-automatic weapons.
The only Republicans to support the bill were Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Chris Jacobs of New York. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas were the Democratic representatives that abstained.
Since the previous prohibition came to an end nearly two decades ago, Democrats have been hesitant to bring up the subject again and take on the gun lobby. Democrats, though, ventured to take action before the fall election since voter attitudes appear to be changing. Voters will learn from the outcome where the candidates stand on the subject.
Jason Quimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, stated in a statement following the vote that “gun control advocates in Congress are spearheading an assault upon the freedoms and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans” “Nearly a month after” the Supreme Court expanded gun rights, Quimet said.
According to him, the bill could outright outlaw millions of firearms “in blatant contrast to the Supreme Court’s judgements,” which have built on and established the right to bear arms as an individual right.
There would be almost 200 different types of semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s, and handguns that would be prohibited. Many other models would be exempt from the restrictions.
Democrats had made an effort to tie the gun control proposal to a larger set of public safety initiatives that would have bolstered federal money for police enforcement. Centrist Democrats wanted it to protect them from political allegations from their Republican opponents that they are soft on crime during difficult reelection elections.
When lawmakers are anticipated to briefly return to Washington in August to deal with other unfinished business, including Biden’s top priority package of health care and climate change legislation making its way through the Senate, Pelosi indicated the House will address the public safety initiatives.
Just last month, in the wake of the horrible massacre in Uvalde that left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead, Congress passed a modest package to avoid gun violence. After years of unsuccessful attempts to take on the gun lobby, notably following a comparable mass shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that bipartisan bill was the first of its kind.
Expanded background checks on young adults purchasing firearms are mandated by that statute, and police are given access to specific juvenile records. Additionally, by prohibiting gun purchases for people found guilty of domestic abuse outside of marriage, it closes the infamous “boyfriend loophole.”
The new measure also makes federal cash available to the states, allowing them to enact “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement to take guns away from people who would hurt others or themselves.
However, even that meager attempt to curtail gun violence was made at a time when the United States faced serious uncertainty on gun control measures as the increasingly conservative Supreme Court considered these and other matters.
Two days after the Supreme Court invalidated a New York law that limited people’s ability to carry concealed guns, Biden signed the legislation.