House passes bill to ban assault weapons
The House on Friday passed a bill to ban assault weapons, securing a significant victory for Democrats following a spate of mass shootings across the country and marking the first time lawmakers have approved a prohibition on the popular firearms in more than two decades.
The legislation, titled the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, cleared the chamber in a 217-213 vote.
Republican Reps. Chris Jacobs (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) supported the measure, while Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) voted “no.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday morning that the House would take up the legislation that afternoon, scheduling the last-minute vote days after she said the chamber would punt consideration of the legislation to next month.
Democrats had planned to move the assault weapons ban with community safety legislation under one rule, but ultimately decided to consider them separately after some liberals voiced concerns about a lack of accountability in the police measures.
The assault weapons ban legislation, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and co-sponsored by 207 voting Democrats, specifically calls for prohibiting the sale, manufacture, transfer or import of various semi-automatic assault weapons, semi-automatic pistols and semi-automatic shotguns, depending on their features.
For example, all semi-automatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines and have a pistol grip, a forward grip, a grenade launcher, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding, telescoping or detachable stock are subject to the ban.
Semi-automatic assault rifles with fixed magazines that can accept more than 15 rounds are subject to the ban would also be prohibited under the legislation, except those with an attached tubular device that can only hold .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.
Though it received bipartisan support in the House, the legislation has little chance of progressing in the Senate because of widespread Republican opposition. Still, House Democrats had pressed leadership for the chance to vote on the measure to send a message that they are fighting for an issue that has increased in popularity in recent years.
A poll conducted by Fox News in June found that 63 percent of registered voters support banning assault weapons.
Former President Clinton enacted an assault weapons ban in 1994 but it expired 10 years later, and Democrats have not had the support to pass another measure of its kind since.
During debate on the House floor Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the “common sense reform” in the bill “will save the lives of law enforcement officers and innocent Americans across the country.”
“A moment of silence is not enough. I should have counted how many moments of silence we have had on this Floor this year and lamented the loss of children and the elderly and everybody in between because of a weapon that is designed to kill a lot of people quickly. No more moments of silence. Let’s act,” he later added.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, however, argued that the measure was unconstitutional and asserted that the bill “won’t make communities safer.”
“Democrats tried this ban before, It didn’t work. It won’t work now. And you know what it will do? It’ll make communities, I think, less safe,” he said.
“This bill is wrong, it will make communities, I think, less safe, and it’s unconstitutional,” he added.
The vote on an assault weapons ban is the latest firearm-related legislation the House has passed following a string of mass shootings that have plagued the country.
The measure enhanced background checks for gun purchasers ages 18 to 21 and established a federal offense for individuals obtaining firearms through straw purchases or trafficking, among other provisions.
The bill marked the first time in almost three decades that Congress had approved significant legislation to combat gun violence.
The House in June also cleared a bill to nationalize red flag laws and a sweeping package that included a number of gun-related provisions, including one that would have raised the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 and prohibited civilian use of ammunition with magazines that have more than 15 rounds. Both measures, however, garnered little Republican support and have not been taken up in the Senate.
The push for gun legislation came after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two adults. Ten days before that, a gunman fatally shot 10 Black individuals in a racially motivated attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.
In both situations, the alleged shooter was a young man wielding an AR-style semi-automatic weapon, which is the main target of the assault weapons ban.
— Updated at 9:29 p.m.