WASHINGTON — (AP) — A House panel on Thursday proposed legislation that would raise the age limit for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 as Democrats moved quickly to put their stamp on it. on gun legislation in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York by assailants who used these weapons to kill 31 people, including 19 children.
The vote came as President Joe Biden gave a primetime speech on the shooting and told Americans, “Let’s hear the call and the cry, let’s meet the moment, finally do something.”
Partisan positions were clear during the Judiciary Committee hearing, which lasted more than nine hours. In addition to raising the age limit for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles, the bill would also make it a federal offense to import, manufacture, or possess high-capacity magazines and create a grant program to redeem these chargers.
It also builds on the administration’s executive branch action banning quick-acting devices and “ghost guns” that are assembled without a serial number.
The final vote to move the bill forward was 25 to 19, with Democrats representing all yes votes and Republicans representing all no votes.
Democratic legislation, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was quickly added to the legislative roll after last week’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised in a letter Thursday to her fellow Democrats that the House would vote on the measure next week, and she promised more votes in the coming weeks, including on a bill aimed at creating an Amber Alert style. notification during a mass shooting. Pelosi also promised a hearing on a bill banning military-style semi-automatic rifles.
But with Republicans nearly all in opposition, the House action will be mostly tokenism, simply updating lawmakers on gun control ahead of this year’s election. The Senate is following a different path, with a bipartisan group working to reach a compromise on gun safety legislation that can win enough GOP support to become law. Those talks are making “rapid progress,” according to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the Republican negotiators.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, defended his chamber’s proposals as popular with most Americans. He dismissed Republican criticism.
“You say it’s too early to act? That we “politicize” these tragedies to adopt new policies? Nadler said. “It’s been 23 years since Columbine. Fifteen years since Virginia Tech. Ten years since Sandy Hook. Seven years since Charleston. Four years since Parkland and Santa Fe. and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
“Too soon? My friends, what are you waiting for?
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, said no one wanted another tragedy. But he insisted the House bill would do nothing to stop the mass shootings.
“We seriously need to figure out why this keeps happening. Democrats are still obsessed with restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens rather than trying to figure out why this evil is happening,” Jordan said. facing the problem. the why.”
A main feature of the House bill requires that those buying semi-automatic weapons be at least 21 years old. Only six states require someone to be at least 21 to purchase rifles and shotguns. The shooters from Uvalde and Buffalo, New York, were both 18 years old and using an AR-15 type weapon.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said it should be a red flag when an 18-year-old wants to buy “an assault weapon.”
“That’s what they want for their 18th birthday, is that an assault weapon?” They have a problem, which means we have a problem, which means these 19 children and their parents and these two teachers have a problem, forever,” Cohen said, referring to the victims in Uvalde.
Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.C., however, pointed last month to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that found California’s ban on selling semi-automatic weapons to adults under 21 was unconstitutional.
“I can tell you this, and let me be clear, you’re not going to force yourself to deny Americans their basic rights,” Bishop said.
The hearing featured emotional calls from Democratic lawmakers for Congress to respond to mass shootings after years of stalemate on gun issues, one of the most compelling coming from Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia.
She recalled how her son, Jordan, was shot and killed at a gas station by a man who complained about the loud music he was listening to. She said she dreamed of who he would become. She said racial bias led to her death and those of 10 black Americans in Buffalo last month and was “replayed with glib insensitivity and despicable frequency” in the United States.
“We all understand that the killing of our children cannot continue,” McBath said. “And we have solutions that the majority of Americans believe in. These are common-sense compromises that will keep America’s children alive.”
Several lawmakers participated in the remote hearing, including Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., who brandished various pistols as he argued that the bill’s provision banning high-capacity magazines over 10 rounds amounted to prevent law-abiding citizens from purchasing firearms of their choice.
When Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, remarked that she hoped one of the guns Steube was holding wasn’t loaded, Steube replied, “I’m home, I can do whatever I want. with my weapons.” It was one of many pointed exchanges during the hearing.
Any legislative response to the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings will have to go through the equally divided Senate, where the support of at least 10 Republicans would be needed to push the measure through to a final vote. A group of senators worked privately this week in hopes of finding a consensus.
Ideas being discussed include expanding background checks for gun purchases and pushing for red flag laws that allow family members, school officials and others to go to court and obtain orders requiring the police to seize the firearms of people considered to be a threat to themselves or others.
This version corrects to say that Representative Sheila Jackson Lee was the lawmaker who remarked that she hoped a gun shown at a distance during the hearing was unloaded, not Representative Jerrold Nadler.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
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