The Democratic-controlled U.S. House is taking the first steps to enact gun legislation in response to mass shootings in Texas and New York that took the lives of 31 people, including 19 children, and just hours after the shooting Wednesday at the St. Francis Medical Center in Tulsa that left four dead.
In each instance, the shooters used AR-style rifles that were legally purchased. The gunmen in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both aged 18.
The House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to advance a package of bills, collectively titled the “Protecting Our Kids Act.”
Among other things, the measures would raise the age for purchasing certain semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, would bar the import, manufacture or possession of large-capacity magazines, impose a ban on bump-stocks and outlaw so-called ghost guns that are privately made without serial numbers. A vote by the full House could come as early as next week.
Republican leaders are already urging members to vote against it, saying the package was hastily thrown together for political purposes and would do nothing to solve the actual causes of gun violence.
"No one wants another tragedy," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking member of the committee. "No one wants this to happen again, and that’s why it’s regretful the Democrats have rushed to a mark-up today in what seems more like political theater than a real attempt at improving public safety or finding solutions."
But Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposals are popular with Americans and action is long overdue.
"You say that it is too soon to take action? That we are 'politicizing' these tragedies to enact new policies?" Nadler said in his opening statement for Thursday's hearing. "It has 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 Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh…it has not even been 24 hours since the last mass shooting and who knows how long 'til the next one."
“Too soon?” Nadler questioned. “My friends, what the hell are you waiting for?"
If the package does gain passage in the House, it would likely stall in the 50-50 Senate where 60 votes would be needed to overcome an all-but-certain filibuster.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Wednesday that the House will vote separately next week on a measure to ban all "assault weapons." It's not clear if that would have even enough Democratic votes to pass the House and would certainly go nowhere in the Senate.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Senators continues work toward agreement on more modest gun safety legislation that can win enough GOP support to become law. According to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the Republican negotiators, those talks are making "rapid progress.”