House passes sweeping gun package in largely party-line vote
The House passed a sweeping gun package on Wednesday in response to last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, that killed more than 30 people and reignited the push for firearm legislation on Capitol Hill.
The package, dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act, passed in a 223-204 vote. One Republican did not vote.
Two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) — bucked the party in opposing the measure. Five Republicans — Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Jacobs (N.Y.) and Fred Upton (Mich.) — supported it.
The legislation consists of seven separate provisions aimed at addressing gun violence in America. The House voted separately on the individual provisions, all of which cleared the chamber in mainly party-line votes. The overall package, however, is the only legislation that will be sent for consideration to the Senate, where it faces GOP opposition.
A bipartisan group of senators has been engaged in its own negotiations to come to a consensus on narrower gun legislation.
The House package would raise the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21, prohibit civilian use of ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds, and enact new federal criminal offenses for gun trafficking and straw purchases of firearms — when an individual who is unable to pass a background check buys a gun through a proxy.
It also seeks to require that ghost guns — firearms that are untraceable and do not have serial numbers — undergo background checks and receive serial numbers, impose a ban on bump stocks for civilians, and bolster storage of guns in homes where minors may have access to the firearm.
Additionally, the package compels the attorney general to submit a report to congressional committees on the individuals who were deemed ineligible to purchase a firearm by a background check.
Passage of the legislation comes just over two weeks after a shooter opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, killing 19 students and two adults. Ten days before that, a gunman fatally shot 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo.
“America is in the midst of a shocking gun violence epidemic that should shock the conscience of everyone and has devastated children, families and communities. We must address it with the fierce urgency of now,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said on the House floor during debate of the package on Wednesday.
“It is not OK that mass murder has become a way of life in the United States of America. That is why we must pass comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation, address this epidemic decisively and allow America to be the best version of itself,” he added.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on her colleagues to support the measure, making a particular plea to Republicans without addressing them by name.
“To those who a moment of silence is good enough because you don’t have the courage to take a vote to protect the children, I would say your political survival is totally insignificant to the survival of, or compared to the survival of, our children,” she said.
Most Republicans, however, were not on board with the overall package. In a memo to House GOP lawmakers on Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) office recommended that members of the conference vote against the legislation, arguing that the measure “egregiously violates law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights and hinders Americans’ ability to defend and protect themselves and their families.”
On the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, reiterated that stance.
“What happened in Uvalde, Buffalo, Tulsa is as wrong as wrong could be, and our hearts go out to those communities and those families who have been impacted in such a terrible way. But the answer is not to destroy the Second Amendment. But that is exactly where the Democrats want to go,” Jordan said.
“What this bill does is take away Second Amendment rights, God-given rights, protected by our Constitution, from law-abiding American citizens. That’s what this legislation does, and that’s why we should oppose it,” he later added.
Some Republicans have called for measures to increase school security in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting. Others have encouraged measures addressing mental health.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) turned to those arguments during debate on Wednesday.
“I ask my colleagues across the aisle to set aside this partisan agenda. Instead, help me to harden schools. Help me to intervene with students in mental health crises before they reach a breaking point,” he said.
The package faces certain resistance in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans are needed to overcome a legislative filibuster.
However, there has been bipartisan openness in the upper chamber to enacting state red flag laws, bolstering a national criminal background check system and supplying funding for mental health treatment.