The House on Wednesday endorsed some of the most aggressive gun-control measures taken up on Capitol Hill in years — including raising the minimum age for the purchase of most semiautomatic rifles to 21 and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines — as Washington seeks to mount a tough response to recent high-profile mass shootings.
By Mike DeBonis I The Washington Post The 223-to-204 vote took place just hours after a House committee heard searing testimony from a young survivor of the May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Tex., as well as the parents of a victim and a pediatrician who responded to the tragedy that left 19 elementary-schoolers and two teachers dead. Five Republicans joined most Democrats in backing the legislation. Two Democrats voted no. “Somewhere out there, there is a mom listening to our testimony, thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now,” said Kimberly Rubio, the mother of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who was killed in the attack. The House vote, however, will amount to little more than a political messaging exercise because of firm Republican opposition to substantial new gun restrictions. That has left hopes for a bipartisan deal that could be signed into law in the hands of a small group of senators who are exploring much more modest changes to federal gun laws. Those talks continued Wednesday in hopes of sealing a deal in the coming days.
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Still, Democrats said this week’s House votes were necessary to show Americans that more can be done to prevent not only mass-casualty incidents such as the killings last month in Buffalo and Uvalde, but the hundreds of less deadly mass shootings and everyday incidents of gun violence that have long scourged America. “Even if our Senate colleagues do not take up these exact bills, I will tell you what this process we are going through will absolutely do and why our efforts here are worthwhile: This process will unequivocally show where each and every one of us stand in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), adding that the votes would send a clear message to the Senate negotiators.
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Republicans attacked the bills as an unserious, partisan effort that would infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights. At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called them an effort “to destroy the Second Amendment.” The bill under consideration Wednesday, Jordan said, “in short, tells Americans, law-abiding American citizens, when they can buy a firearm, what kind of firearm they can get, and where and how they have to store it in their own darn home — a direct attack on Second Amendment rights
Besides the minimum-age measure and the ban on high-capacity magazines, the House legislation passed Wednesday includes proposals that would crack down on gun trafficking, create new safe-storage requirements for gun owners, and codify executive orders that ban untraceable “ghost guns” as well as “bump stock” devices that allow a semiautomatic rifle to mimic machine-gun fire.
Of the five House Republicans voting for the bill — Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Chris Jacobs (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Fred Upton (Mich.) — only Fitzpatrick is seeking reelection. Among Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) voted no; Schrader lost his campaign for renomination last month.
House lawmakers will vote Thursday on a separate bill dealing with red-flag laws that could allow authorities to keep guns out of the hands of people judged to represent a threat to themselves or their communities. The bill combines legislation from Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) that would create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt their own red-flag laws with a measure from Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) that would allow federal courts to issue red-flag orders, which are formally known as “extreme risk protection orders.”
The House last year passed two bills dealing with federal background checks — one that would expand their applicability to all commercial sales, including gun shows and internet transactions, and another that would extend the time frame for completing a check. Neither has come to a vote in the Senate because of GOP opposition.
The Senate is exploring a narrower package that could include legislation encouraging states to create red-flag systems, a modest expansion of background checks to incorporate juvenile records, as well as funding for mental health programs and school security improvements.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the lead GOP negotiator, cited “steady progress” Wednesday, but he declined to say when a deal might be reached and counseled against “artificial deadlines.” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has signaled a desire to accelerate the talks, lest the recent shootings fade from public attention.
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