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House Democrats to move slate of gun bills this week

House Democrats are wasting no time taking up gun violence legislation following last week’s school massacre in Texas, scheduling a special session of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to send a slate of tougher firearms rules to the chamber floor.

The Judiciary panel will consider eight proposals during the emergency markup, a committee aide confirmed on Tuesday, including bills to curb gun trafficking; promote the safe storage of firearms; and raise the eligible purchase age for certain semi-automatic rifles. 

The special mid-recess markup, first reported by Punchbowl News, points to the new urgency among Democrats on Capitol Hill to enact tougher laws combating gun violence following the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, last Tuesday, when an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 fourth grade students and two teachers. 

The aim is to get the bills to the floor for a vote “ASAP,” the aide said. 

The tougher lift will be in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are also hoping to move a series of anti-gun violence proposals, but have a tough climb in the face of Republicans who are overwhelmingly opposed to any new limits on the sale or possession of firearms. While a small bipartisan group of senators has formed to attempt to negotiate some compromise, even the staunchest gun reform advocates are skeptical the effort will bear fruit in the 50-50 Senate, where the support of 10 Republicans will be needed to send anything to President Biden’s desk. 

House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have no plans to wait around for a Senate breakthrough. 

The House has already approved legislation this Congress to expand background checks prior to gun sales — a proposal getting renewed interest in the wake of Uvalde, which marked the deadliest school shooting since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Additionally, House Democratic leaders have already announced their plans to vote next week on so-called “red flag” legislation designed to keep firearms from the hands of potentially violent people. Sponsored by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), the bill would expand the power of the courts to issue protective orders barring people from buying or possessing firearms if a judge deems them to be a threat to themselves or others. 

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have red-flag laws on the books. McBath’s proposal would nationalize the system to ensure it covers all 50 states.

The Judiciary Committee will add to that list on Thursday, when they’ll vote to send eight additional proposals to the full House. They include legislation to raise the age to buy certain semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21; codify the ban on bump stocks, which essentially convert semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons; ban the new sale of high-capacity magazines; create new federal penalties for gun trafficking; apply new restrictions on so-called “ghost guns;” and establish new penalties for the improper storage of guns at home. 

The list does not include some of the more aggressive reform proposals favored by liberal gun reformers, including a ban on AR-style semi-automatic rifles, like those allegedly used both in Uvalde and an earlier mass shooting this month in Buffalo, N.Y., where 10 people were killed in a grocery store.

— Updated at 10:58 a.m.

Tags Biden Lucy McBath Texas school shooting
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