US House passes semi-automatic gun ban after 18-year lapse

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WASHINGTON: The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Friday to revive a ban on semi-automatic weapons, the first vote of its kind in years and a direct response to the firearms commonly used in the downing of firearms. mass shootings sweeping across the country.
Once banned in the US, the powerful firearms are now widely regarded as the weapon of choice for young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. But Congress allowed restrictions on the production and sale of weapons introduced in 1994 to expire ten years later, unable to muster the political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and reinstate the gun ban.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the vote toward passage in the Democrat-run House, saying the previous ban “saved lives.”
House legislation is shunned by Republicans, who have rejected it as a strategy for the election year by Democrats. Nearly all Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 217-213. It will likely grind to a halt in the 50-50 Senate.
The bill comes at a time of mounting concern over gun violence and shootings – the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York; massacre of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas; and the July 4 shooting of revelers in Highland Park, Illinois.
Voters seem to take such votes seriously in the election year as Congress splits along party lines and lawmakers are forced to make their views known. A recent vote to protect same-sex marriage from potential Supreme Court legal challenges won surprisingly strong bipartisan support.
President Joe Biden, who as a senator in 1994 played a key role in securing the first ban on semi-automatic weapons, encouraged passage and promised to sign the bill if it landed on his desk. In a statement before the vote, his administration said that “we know an assault weapon and a ban on high-capacity magazines will save lives.”
The Biden administration said that for 10 years while the ban was in effect, mass shootings declined. “When the ban expired in 2004, the number of shootings tripled,” the statement said.
Republicans stood firm against restrictions on possession of the high-powered firearms during an at times emotional debate ahead of the vote.
“It’s a pistol grip, pure and simple,” says Representative Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa.
said Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., “An Armed America is a Safe and Free America.”
Democrats argued that the gun ban makes sense, portraying Republicans as extreme and out of step with Americans.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the gun ban isn’t about taking away Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but about ensuring that children also have the right “not to be shot in school.”
Pelosi showed a poster of a gun manufacturer’s advertisement for children’s weapons, smaller versions that resemble the popular AR-15 rifles and are marketed with cartoon-like characters. “Disgusting,” she said.
The bill would make it illegal to import, sell or manufacture a long list of semi-automatic weapons. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., said it exempts those who already own it.
For nearly two decades, since the previous ban expired, Democrats have been reluctant to revisit the issue and tackle the gun lobby. But voters’ opinions seem to be shifting and Democrats dared to intervene ahead of the fall election. The outcome will provide voters with information about where the candidates stand on the issue.
Democrats had tried to tie the gun ban with a broader package of public security measures that would have increased federal funding for law enforcement. It is something that centrist Democrats in tough reelection campaigns wanted to protect them from political attacks from their Republican opponents, they are soft on crime.
Pelosi said the House will review public safety bills in August, when lawmakers are expected to return briefly to Washington to deal with other outstanding legislation, including Biden’s priority inflation-fighting package of health care and climate change strategies making its way into the United States. Senate.
Congress last month approved a modest gun violence prevention package in the wake of the tragic shooting of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde. That bipartisan bill was the first of its kind after years of failed attempts to confront the gun lobby, including following a similar mass tragedy in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
That law provides for extensive background checks on young adults who purchase firearms, giving authorities access to certain juvenile files. It also shuts down the so-called “friend in the law” by refusing gun purchases for those convicted of domestic violence outside of marriage.
The new law also frees up federal funding for the states, including for “red flag” laws that allow authorities to remove weapons from those who would harm themselves or others.
But even that humble effort to end gun violence came at a time of great uncertainty in the US over firearms restrictions as the more conservative Supreme Court tackles gun rights and other issues.
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court ruling overturned a law in New York that restricted people’s ability to carry concealed weapons.


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