House Democrats capitalized on the media attention surrounding last week’s shooting at a Texas school by moving a gun control bill through the Judiciary Committee on Thursday evening. The vote came as Joe Biden was reading a speech on prime-time television.
During the speech, Biden said, “Let’s hear the call and the cry, let’s meet the moment, let us finally do something.”
The charged atmosphere at the Judiciary Committee that lasted more than nine hours was predictably divided along party lines.
The bill is designed to raise the federal age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles to 21. It also would make importing, manufacturing, or possessing “large-capacity magazines” a federal offense. It also would create a federal grant program to “buy back” magazines that are declared illegal. “Buy back” is of course a euphemism for “confiscate” since the government never owned the property being “bought” in the first place.
The final committee vote came in at 25-19, with Democrats providing all the affirmative votes and Republicans providing all the negative votes.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised on Thursday that she will present the bill, titled the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” to the full House next week. Pelosi also said that she would ensure that a hearing would be conducted on the prospect of passing a complete ban of “military-style semi-automatic rifles.”
In the Senate, bipartisan negotiations are underway in search of a compromise gun control bill. The Senate’s filibuster rule requires at least 60 votes for ordinary legislation to advance, and Democrats are looking for at least 10 Republican senators who will accept a new federal gun ban.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is one of the GOP members working on enacting gun control that the party’s national constituency will almost certainly oppose. She said that the talks she is leading to achieve a compromise are “making rapid progress.”
Some of the things Republican senators are willing to negotiate away include expanded background checks and the much less popular “red-flag laws” that provide mechanisms for police to seize guns from people who are alleged to pose threats to public safety.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and said that he believes the House bill is popular with a majority of Americans. Addressing anyone who cautioned against rushing into legislation after the Texas tragedy, he said, “Too soon? My friends, what the hell are you waiting for?”
Ranking GOP committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that the proposed bill would not do anything to stop mass shootings. He said that Congress should instead focus on “understanding why this evil happens.”