WASHINGTON (AP) — The House passed legislation Friday to revive a ban on certain semi-automatic guns, the first vote of its kind in years and a direct response to the firearms often used in the crush of mass shootings ripping through communities nationwide.
Once banned in the U.S., the high-powered firearms are now widely blamed as the weapon of choice among young men responsible for many of the most devastating mass shootings. But Congress allowed the restrictions first put in place in 1994 on the manufacture and sales of the weapons to expire a decade later, unable to muster the political support to counter the powerful gun lobby and reinstate the weapons ban.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the vote toward passage in the Democratic-run House, saying the earlier ban “saved lives.”
President Joe Biden hailed the House vote, saying, “The majority of the American people agree with this common sense action.” He urged the Senate to “move quickly to get this bill to my desk.”
The bill comes at a time of intensifying concerns about gun violence and shootings — the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.; massacre of school children in Uvalde, Texas; and the July Fourth shootings of revelers in Highland Park, Ill.
Voters seem to be taking such election-year votes seriously as Congress splits along party lines and lawmakers are forced to go on the record with their views. A recent vote to protect same-sex marriages from potential Supreme Court legal challenges won a surprising amount of bipartisan support.
Biden was instrumental in helping secure the first semi-automatic weapons ban as a senator in 1994. The Biden administration said that for 10 years, while the ban was in place, mass shootings declined. “When the ban expired in 2004, mass shootings tripled,” the statement said.
Republicans stood firmly against limits on ownership of the high-powered firearms during an at times emotional debate ahead of voting.
“It’s a gun grab, pure and simple,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa.
Said Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., “An armed America is a safe and free America.”
Democrats argued that the ban on the weapons makes sense, portraying Republicans as extreme and out of step with Americans.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the weapons ban is not about taking away Americans’ Second Amendment rights but ensuring that children also have the right “to not get shot in school.”
Pelosi displayed a poster of a gun company’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.
In one exchange, two Ohio lawmakers squared off. “Your freedom stops where mine begins, and that of my constituents begins,” Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur told Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. “Schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, Independence Day parades shouldn’t be scenes of mass carnage and bloodshed.”
Jordan replied by inviting her to his congressional district to debate him on the Second Amendment, saying he believed most of his constituents “probably agree with me and agree with the United States Constitution.”
The bill would make it unlawful to import, sell or manufacture a long list of semi-automatic weapons. Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said it includes an exemption that allows for the possession of existing semi-automatic guns.
Reps. Chris Jacobs of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania were the only Republicans to vote for the measure. The Democratic lawmakers voting no were Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas.
For nearly two decades, since the previous ban expired Democrats had been reluctant to revisit the issue and confront the gun lobby. But voter opinions appear to be shifting and Democrats dared to act before the fall election. The outcome will provide information for voters of where the candidates stand on the issue.
Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement following the vote that “barely a month after” the Supreme Court expanded gun rights “gun control advocates in Congress are spearheading an assault upon the freedoms and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.”
He said the bill potentially bans millions of firearms “in blatant opposition to the Supreme Court’s rulings” that have established gun ownership as an individual right and expanded on it.
Among the semi-automatic weapons banned would be some 200-plus types of semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s, and pistols. The restrictions would not apply to many other models.
Democrats had tried to link the weapons ban to a broader package of public safety measures that would have increased federal funding for law enforcement. It’s something centrist Democrats in tough re-election campaigns wanted to shield them from political attacks by their Republican opponents they are soft on crime.
Pelosi said the House will revisit the public safety bills in August when lawmakers are expected to return briefly to Washington to handle other remaining legislation, including Biden’s priority inflation-fighting package of health care and climate change strategies making its way in the Senate.
Congress passed a modest gun violence prevention package just last month in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of 19 school children and two teachers in Uvalde. That bipartisan bill was the first of its kind after years of failed efforts to confront the gun lobby, including after a similar 2012 mass tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
That law provides for expanded background checks on young adults buying firearms, allowing authorities to access certain juvenile records. It also closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by denying gun purchases for those convicted of domestic abuse outside of marriages.
The new law also frees up federal funding to the states, including for “red flag” laws that enable authorities to remove guns from those who would harm themselves or others.
But even that modest effort at halting gun violence came at time of grave uncertainty in the U.S. over restrictions on firearms as the more conservative Supreme Court is tackling gun rights and other issues.
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a New York law that restricted people’s ability to carry concealed weapons.
This story was first published on July 29, 2022. It was updated on August 1, 2022 to correct the name of the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action to Jason Ouimet, not Jason Quimet.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves California Disaster Declaration
Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of California and ordered Federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe storm and flooding from January 21 to January 23, 2024.
The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in San Diego County.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Ms. N. Allison Pfaendler of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been appointed to coordinate Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service.
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Biden’s National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard on Today’s CHIPS & Science Act
President Biden signed the CHIPS & Science Act to restore America’s leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and ensure America’s consumers, businesses, and military maintain reliable access to the chips that underpin nearly every aspect of our economy. We all experienced the impacts of global supply chain stress and semiconductor shortages during the pandemic, and the CHIPS and Science Act provides critical investments to build a robust, resilient American supply chain of semiconductors that power everything from home goods to electric vehicles to satellites. Already as a result of President Biden’s policies and actions in partnership with the private sector, supply chain stress has fallen from near record highs to record lows, and inflation has closely followed.
Today, the Department of Commerce announced the second preliminary memorandum of terms (PMT) for approximately $162 million dollars to be awarded to Microchip Technology. The chips and microcontroller units (MCUs) that Microchip fabricates are essential components in a wide range of consumer and defense products that are critical to American manufacturing, including electric which is only a fraction of the additional private investment that Microchip is making in these projects supply chain that impacts millions of American consumers and businesses.
As the Department of Commerce continues to make award announcements in the coming months, President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will continue to demonstrate how it is delivering for hardworking Americans, creating good jobs, strengthening American supply chains, and protecting our national security.
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